The Government is likely to target the hospitality sector under tough new immigration rules which come into force today, lawyers have warned.
Under the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006, companies that employ illegal migrant workers could face a fine of up to £10,000 per illegal worker.
If an employer does so knowingly, then they are committing a criminal offence, which carries on indictment a maximum two-year prison sentence and/or an unlimited fine.
Furthermore, the employer will be obliged to check the ongoing entitlement of a foreign worker's right to work in the UK.
According to the law firm Wedlake Bell, hospitality is likely to be the first port of call on the Government's clampdown, given that traditionally it is a sector where a very large number of newly arrived immigrants are absorbed.
"It will be interesting to see how this affects projects related to the 2012 Olympics in London, an area where masses of temporary staff are needed," said David Israel, partner at Wedlake Bell.
Employers cannot avoid responsibility for this process, even if they outsource the responsibility for taking up references and other checks for their staff, Israel added.
"Outsourcing the checking process to an immigration specialist or agency does not protect the company from liability should the Government find out that it is employing an illegal worker, even if this is done so unknowingly by the company," he said.
More than 150,000 people from Eastern Europe have registered to work in the UK hospitality industry since the eight former Soviet countries joined the European Union in May 2004.
According to figures released by the Home Office earlier week, more than 152,000 workers were employed in hospitality, making up 19% of all Eastern European migrants in the UK.
By far the biggest number were Poles, followed by Slovakians and Lithuanians.
By Daniel Thomas
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