With the huge influx of migrant workers into the UK's construction industry in the run up to the 2012 Olympics, Graham Paul looks at how sensible planning can ensure employers stay on the right side of the law.
London's successful bid for the 2012 Olympics and the subsequent influx of migrant staff into the UK construction industry has highlighted certain issues organisations must overcome when engaging migrant workers.
Of course, the migrant workforce has been one of the cornerstones of the UK economy for some time now. In many cases, the engagement of migrant staff has proved to be the only method by which skill shortages in the construction, transport, security, tourism and IT sectors have been able to be filled.
The current strong UK economic performance and greater labour market flexibility means the influx of migrant workers is only likely to increase in the near future. It is, therefore, imperative that organisations have effective policies and procedures in place to be able to successfully deal with the legal issues that may arise when engaging such workers.
Organisations must make clear from the start the basis on which they are engaging the migrant staff. Is there to be a relationship of employer/employee, or is the migrant worker simply going to work for the organisation under a contract for services?
Either way, thought should always be directed to compliance with current immigration law. If you are engaging a migrant worker through an agency, then the agency has the principal duty to make the appropriate checks. However, if the migrant worker is to be employed, whether on a fixed-term contract or not, the appropriate checks must be made by the employing organisation before the individual in question is taken on.
The Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 gained Royal Assent on 30 March 2006, but its terms are gradually coming into force over the next year or so. This introduces a new civil penalties scheme – introducing fines and/or the possibility of custodial sentences of up to two years for those organisations employing illegal workers. With employers being exposed to greater penalties for employing those who do not have a right to work in the UK, it is essential that recruitment processes and the personnel responsible for recruitment within the employer's organisation are aware of the evidence which is required to satisfy the relevant legislation.