Tough new penalties on firms that knowingly use or exploit illegal workers are of less concern than new bureaucracy surrounding work permit visas, according to the British Hospitality Association (BHA).
Under the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill published last week, offending employers face new civil penalties of up to £2,000 for each illegal worker, a possible two-year jail sentence and unlimited further fines.
BHA deputy chairman Martin Couchman said this did not change the current situation as most hospitality firms get temporary staff from recruitment agencies. These are legally responsible for checking documentation of the temporary staff on their books.
"In principle we have no problems with this, providing the law is drawn up so it is clear exactly what the employer needs to do," said Couchman. "We are more concerned about the extra bureaucracy regarding work permit visas."
At present, employers have to check work permits of overseas staff only once and are not penalised if the permits subsequently expire. The new regulations will require regular checks, perhaps once a year.
The bill also mentions a points scheme for migrants that will favour the highly-skilled, although details are yet to be hammered out. "It will make it harder to get unskilled workers from outside the UK," Couchman concluded.