11th May 2016
Whatever you thoughts about whether the UK stays within or outside of Europe there still remains deep concerns about the number of illegal migrant workers within a UK workforce where now one in nine is a foreign national. And if they are lying about their right to work, are they prime targets to commit payroll fraud in your company?
The migrant surge poses a big question for companies is now ‘How do I effectively check whether they can legally work here on not?’ If you don’t know the difference between what’s a real or fake French, Italian, Croatian or other passport (or other work documentation) you could be taking someone on who doesn’t legally have the right to work here.
Not your problem? Think again
Employers have a duty to prevent illegal working in the UK by people who are subject to immigration control. Where this is not complied with, an employer may face a civil financial penalty and prosecution. Section 15 of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 covers all of an employers responsibility.
Those employers that have the necessary processes in place to manage migrant workers will not be alarmed by having to carry out Right to work checks. However, those businesses that do not have processes in place should ensure that they do so immediately to make sure that they are not falling foul of illegal employment. The worst thing would be to employ someone and get them onto the company payroll only to have to undergo scrutiny, checks and backtracking on finding out they should not have been employed. Employers who engage an illegal worker can face a maximum penalty of £20,000 for each individual who doesn’t have the right to work in the UK, or a prison sentence.
Employers must check that all documents are genuine, original and unchanged and belong to the actual candidate. This includes checking the dates for the candidate’s right to work in the UK haven’t expired and photos are the same across the documents and it is a true likeness to the applicant. Date of birth should be checked, as should the permissions which the applicant has to work in the role that you are offering.
The checks themselves can be a lengthy and time consuming process, but should form part of the verification that the organisation undertakes prior to confirming employment with the candidate. Undertaking the checks on the day that the employee begins work is not an option, and can result in the repercussions mentioned above.
These checks should be carried out by HR with copies of the documents being retained on employee records for the duration of the individual’s employment and for two years after termination of the contract. Interestingly HR teams are often ill equipped to handle the checks
Employers are also expected to carry out annual checks on migrant workers. Many view this administrative task as laborious, particularly where a migrant has permission to work in the UK that is valid for a long period. This information should be shared between HR and Payroll Departments on an ongoing basis so that organisations can keep records up to date and ensure that any employee whose right to work has expired is being handled in the correct way.
It can’t be that bad, can it?
Despite having some of the toughest immigration laws within the European Union, illegal immigration continues to be a major problem in the UK because of counterfeit, fraudulent or stolen EU identity documents. With poor administration in your company are you one step away from payroll fraud?