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Employing someone knowingly who has no right to work or live in the UK is a criminal offence. You, as a business owner, are required to check and keep evidence of the legal right to work of each employee. Even if you have not employed workers in your business directly, there are convincing reasons why you must still seek to establish their right to work. This incorporates the risk that if illegal workers are removed from your business it could disruption to your operations and lead to reputational damage.

UK Prevention of Illegal Working

A UK employer, under laws introduced in 2006, can be held responsible for a fine of up to £20,000 per illegal worker they hire in their business. These fines can apply even if the employer was not aware that the employment was unlawful.  The only defence you can consider against a fine is if you can show the Home Office that you have been keeping accurate records on your employees. It is a criminal offense to deliberately hire an unlawful worker – employers can face an unrestricted fine and be granted up to 2 years in prison.

The penalty can be serious for any business. However, it can be specifically troublesome in case you have a sponsor licence. If you violate these rules, not only could you lose your licence but your right to sponsor migrant workers to work for you.

Illegal working can often lead to offensive and unfair behaviour, the exploitation of unlawful migrant workers, tax evasion, and housing conditions that are against the law. Also, it can make legitimate businesses ineffective and have an unfavourable impact on the employment of those individuals that are living legally in the UK. Every employer is expected to abide by the law and ensure their employees have the right to work in the United Kingdom by performing the appropriate checks.

What Should I Do to Prevent Illegal Working?

Employers can be accountable for fines if you do not carry out proper checks prior to employing a migrant worker. You should:

Check the Applicant’s Original Documents

Verify that the documents are valid as well as genuine with the applicant, ensuring the date of birth, photos, and personal information is the same across each document

Check the Right of the Applicant to Work Online

This is when they have given you their share code

Make sure you check that the dates for the applicant’s right to work in the United Kingdom have not expired. Also, you are required to make a copy of the original documents and keep them on record as evidence.

If your employee is not able to show you their documents, you should ask the Home Office to check their immigration employment status. Then the Home Office will send you a ‘Positive Verification Notice’ to verify the right to work with the applicant. You are required to keep this document on their record to show you have lawfully employed them. The best and easiest way to ensure that all this takes place is to have the right policies and procedures in place.

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