The new migrant worker checking service will be run from the same Sheffield call centre as the current much-criticised system, with no extra staff or money, Personnel Today has learned.
The government admitted it had no plans to increase resources at the Border and Immigration Agency’s employer helpline as it took on new responsibilities.
Business representatives have said the existing helpline often left employers on hold for more than an hour. A significant improvement was needed to justify the Home Office’s tough new penalties for employing illegal migrants, they said.
But a Home Office spokeswoman told Personnel Today: “The new employee checking service will build on the existing service. We will be using existing Border and Immigration Agency staff for now, with no new spending on the system. But this will be kept under review and assessed during the pilot review stage.”
The helpline gives non case-specific advice, whereas the checking service will allow employers to call up with a visa number for verification. It is currently in the pilot stage, in preparation for a full launch in early 2008.
Earlier this month, the government proposed two-year jail terms for bosses found guilty of knowingly employing illegal migrants. Those that are ‘less than diligent’ in checking visas could face fines of up to £10,000 per illegal employee.
Kieran O’Keefe, policy adviser at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “The crackdown must be matched with good, accessible advice for employers so they can check workers properly. Reports from our members on the helpline is that they were put on hold for an hour and gave up. For a busy business person, that is not ideal.
“We will watch very carefully to see whether the new system is better.”