There has been a sharp increase in the number of businesses being targeted by immigration officers, acting on “intelligence”.
Almost twice as many people suspected of being in the UK unlawfully were arrested in 2014 as in 2011. Immigration officers are targeting smaller business, including restaurants, car washes and nail bars, for example in last year’s “Operation Centurion”.
Officers can get a warrant, or they can be authorised by senior immigration staff, to enter premises, question business owners and staff members, and remove documents such as staff files and payroll records. However, last year the Independent Chief Inspector found that up to two thirds of searches conducted without a warrant were unlawful.
If immigration officers suspect that a person found on business premises is working without the proper immigration permission, they can issue a civil penalty to the business of up to £20,000 per person.
If you knowingly employ someone illegally you could also face a criminal charge and up to 2 years in jail.
It is vital that all employers are familiar with the requirements of immigration laws as they affect people working in the UK.
Here are some tips to get you started:
Get to know the gov.uk website. This is the main source of information about what documents you need to check when you take on a new employee, and what could happen if you don’t get things right. Information for employers is not immediately easy to find, but you can get started at:
Sign up for email updates about immigration and employment law from the website. This means that you will receive notice about any legal changes automatically. This is important in case of changes to the kinds of documents that are accepted as proof of a right to work, for example.
Always follow the document-checking and copying procedure for all new employees before they start work, and keep records of what you did and when: this is the best protection against a fine in future. Make sure you keep all employees’ documents for at least 2 years after they leave.
If you do become suspicious about an employee’s status, you can use the Employer’s Helpline 0300 123 4699. A fine may be reduced if you have already reported your suspicions to UK Visas & Immigration.
Remember that not all raids are conducted legally. You should take urgent legal advice if you think that officers have raided your business without reasonable suspicion, or if they have done so without a warrant. There are serious consequences for businesses and workers when a business is raided, and the Home Office can be held to account if necessary.
If your business has been raided or fined, we can help. We have an excellent record in overturning and reducing fines. We can also advise you on how to set up and run an efficient employee records system, so that you are protected in future.
Contact Kitty Falls in our Immigration Department to find out more - firstname.lastname@example.org / 023 8022 1344 / @DG_immigration