The hospitality sector has a higher turnover and employment rate than any other industry, which is why it is no surprise that illegal immigrants also find it the most attractive when seeking work. Yet, with the government adamant to decrease the number of illegal workers employed, the Immigration Act could leave law breaking employers facing a custodial sentence of five years.
A recent case involving Byron Burger unknowingly employing 35 illegal employees has gained media coverage and also highlighted the negligence of some employers in the hospitality sector. Coincidently, on 12 May 2016 the government introduced the Immigration Act 2016 to replace the Immigration Bill, with the intention to make it harder for illegal and rogue stayers to work in the UK by imposing stronger sanctions and penalties. The changes to the act will be enforced periodically over the coming year. Consequently, as of 12 July 2016, two offences are now enforceable:
- The law on employing migrants who are illegal: The offence of “knowingly” will apply to employers have “reasonable cause to believe” that a worker is illegal. Failure to take proper precautions could leave the employer with harsh sanctions.
- The introduction of a new offence: “The illegal working” offence will punish those who have breached the act by working illegally.
Failure to carry out thorough checks, can lead to:
- For the employer: Depending on the severity of the case, employers can expect to face a custodial sentence of up to five years and potentially a fine of £20,000 for every illegal worker. An Immigration officer will also have the right to shut down the premises for up to 48 hours. Furthermore, if your establishment sells alcohol, you may risk losing your licence.
- For the employee: Depending on the severity of the case, the employee can expect to face a custodial sentence of up to six months, face criminal prosecution and deportation. The worker can also expect all their earnings made during the duration of their employment to be seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
It is therefore important to thoroughly check the status of all of your employees prior to them working with you in order to protect yourself from penalties. As best practice, you should only ever accept original documentation that is in date and is a “like-to-like” representation of the potential employee. Always take as much precaution and as many reasonable steps to ensure validity, but also photocopy documents; this will prove helpful when carrying out repeat checks on employees with limited leave. Lighter punishments will be given to the employer if you have been defrauded but failed to correctly do thorough checks. Gov.uk has a guide on the right way to check your employees’ status to work.
If you would like to find out more information, please contact Adam Moody our hospitality specialist at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also be interested in our Employers Guide, providing you with in-depth insights on how to be an effective employer.