A leading HR expert has warned employers in the region against the perils of taking on illegal workers.
In a recent high-profile case, Byron Burger brought the issue of employing illegal workers into sharp focus.
Co-operating with the Home Office, Byron called staff meetings in the Capital that led to 35 workers being arrested. Byron faced a strong backlash with unpleasant protests and negative media coverage.
Alison Schreiber, who runs the Durham & Darlington franchise of national human resources firm The HR Dept, explains the strict laws that are relevant to businesses locally.
She said: “The law has actually changed this summer to make penalties for employers even more severe. If you employ someone illegally and either didn’t do checks or didn’t do them properly you could face a civil penalty notice of up to £20,000, and risk being named and shamed by Immigration Enforcement.
“That’s a pretty steep starting point for businesses who we could call negligent. However, if an employer is found guilty of knowingly employing illegal workers, or having reasonable cause to believe they were, the penalties go up an order of magnitude. Five years in jail or an unlimited fine should be enough to make any employer sit up and take notice.”
This does not leave much wriggle room for a business to do anything other than co-operate fully. Even if an employer merely suspects papers are false or that candidates aren’t allowed to do certain types of work, they could be liable. So what does The HR Dept advise.
Alison continues: “This is something you have to get right from the very beginning. The Home Office is taking this very seriously and is reportedly auditing companies every day. There are many processes you should follow to recruit properly and if you hire overseas workers, carrying out robust checks is one of them. Following this advice should see you not only stay on the right side of the law but also avoid the negative publicity that Byron Burger suffered by having to act long after the employment relationship was established.”
Alison Schreiber offers free initial consultations to businesses in Durham and Darlngton, visit her website to get in touch.