Illegal workers: a major human resources priority

The latest crackdown on rogue employers who knowingly recruit illegal migrant workers is sure to be a major priority for HR over the next few months.

Under the new legislation, introduced on 29 February, employers that knowingly hire illegal migrant workers could incur an unlimited fine and be sent to prison. This offence is aimed at rogue employers that deliberately exploit migrant workers, but there’s plenty for law-abiding employers to think about too.

A lesser, civil, offence of employing illegal migrant workers is also introduced with fines of up to £10,000.

The regulations will, inevitably, mean more red tape for HR. To be excused from liability for a civil penalty, employers must check specified documents when hiring a new recruit and make subsequent checks at 12-month intervals for workers who have limited leave to enter or remain in the UK. The level of the fine depends on the nature of checks the employer has undertaken.

Falling foul of anti-discrimination law is another danger that employers always have to be aware of – and with good cause. A study by law firm Nabarro has revealed that employers that recruit specifically from areas with high numbers of ethnic minorities or target women or ethnic minority applicants in recruitment shortlists could end up in court.

We talk to one employer that is well-prepared for the changes and has taken a proactive, but non-discriminatory approach to stamping out illegal working.

The new sanctions are part of a package of reforms that also include the introduction of a points-based immigration system, which is being phased in during 2008.

Stephen Simpson, consultant editor

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