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The Immigration Act and your contract/temporary workforce

25 August 2016

The lowdown

The Immigration Act 2016 came into force on 12th May 2016 to focus on issues surrounding illegal migration and the punishment of those who don’t play by the rules. As well as outlining a number of rules for migrant and refugee rights, the Act will also have a knock-on effect for businesses, especially those which employ a number of temporary workers – so it’s really important to make sure you are clear about the rules and regulations surrounding migrant workers.

Under the new Act, both employers who hire illegal workers and the workers themselves can be subject to criminal sanctions – and the threshold for conviction has also been reduced to where an employer knows or has “reasonable cause to believe” that an employee does not have permission to work lawfully. These punishments can include up to five years in prison, a fine of up to £20,000 if the correct employment checks are not taken, and an unlimited fine if you knowingly hire an illegal worker. As for the workers, they stand to have all of their earnings seized.

So why does this new act exist? Well, as illegal workers continue to be such an increasingly big issue, especially in sectors such as construction, care, retail, and hospitality, the government hopes that the new Act will encourage employers to observe their legal duties. According to new regulations, if immigration officers find evidence that illegal workers are employed in a company, they have the right to close the premises for up to 48 hours to provide the necessary checks, and the business will then be placed under special compliance requirements.

Temporary Workforce

What you need to be aware of

If your business uses a large temporary workforce, it is possible that you could be exposed to illegal workers if your agencies are not performing the necessary checks. Although the responsibility should lie with the agencies to perform these checks you are inadvertently exposed if they do not. There is only one way you can guarantee that they have been done and that is to ask for proof.

Right to Work involves three simple steps: obtaining the employee’s original identity documents, checking that the documents are valid, and making a copy of the documents to securely file away. As well as checking identity documents such as passports, birth certificates and identity cards, you should also check carefully to make sure that the photos and dates across the documents are consistent and you should be aware of any potential work restrictions. If you are unsure whether or not the documents your employee has provided are valid, it’s always best to check the government guide.

With so much at stake, although it might seem a time consuming process, it’s more important than ever to make sure you are carrying out the right checks on each and every member of staff, no matter what length of time they will be employed for. If you use recruitment agencies to provide temporary or contract workers, it’s important that they too are regularly audited so you can be safe in the knowledge that the necessary checks are being carried out on your behalf before candidates are put forward to your business.

If you would like to find out more about how to audit your agencies, have a read of our helpful guide to discover everything you need to know.

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