ThePeopleAlchemist Edit: HR, Business and immigration
Last July immigration officials arrested dozens of illegal workers at Byron prompting mixed reactions from the national media and the burger chain’s customers.
The Home Office carried out raids, with Byron’s full cooperation, after it had received intelligence that some individuals had provided false documents (the restaurant chain had however performed the correct right to work checks on recruits).
The company was accused by some of setting a trap ( inviting employee for training) to bring 35 workers from Non-EU countries to a location where they would be arrested. Although on a personal level I can have sympathy for the employees in question, it has to be accepted they were working illegally and had presumably purchased or created documentation to allow them to break the law.
The Home Office said Byron was fully compliant with the immigration and asylum law in how it handled the issue.
The arrests occurred before the full implementation of tougher immigration rules that came into force 12 July 2016.
The legislation includes the power to close businesses that continue to employ illegal workers and an increase in the maximum prison sentence from 2 to 5 years if employers are prosecuted. The test of illegal working has also been extended: even if employers only have reasonable cause to believe they are employing someone illegally they can be sanctioned, whereas previously this only applied to organisations that knowingly employed someone illegally.
Once the Home Office had received its intelligence, Byron became aware that it was knowingly employing illegal workers and so “ had no option but to cooperate with the Home Office requests or face civil penalties of up to £ 20,000 per employee”.
There is more onus on employers to police right to work but, as long as they are aware of their obligations and have the correct evidence on file, they shouldn’t receive a fine. Employers are not expected to be forgery experts – unless documentation is obviously fake, they would not be expected to spot it.
There were further changes to the UK Immigration Rules that came into force in November 2016 specifically on:
- Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa
- Tier 2 General
- Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfers
- English language
- Family applicants
- Other changes
The Home Office is auditing companies every day; the new penalties, the reworking of the Act and the continuing hardening attitude to the abuse of immigration rules make it even more essential that employers comply with legislation. Employers that have solid policies and processes in place for checking right to work documentation will be in a stronger position to defend their case if they’re found to be employing someone illegally.
With Article 50 looming upon us and with control of immigration and free movement a major part of the discussions, more changes are to be expected.
The golden rule is to keep informed ( ignorance of the Law is not admissible) and, if in doubt, ask for help/seek advice.