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Employing illegal workers

Posted on 1st October 2009
Case law

The Attorney General, Baroness Scotland, has been fined £5,000 for negligently employing an individual who was not permitted to work in the UK.

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Whilst she had taken steps to check the employee's documents, she had failed to keep copies of those documents

Background

Under the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 it is unlawful for an employer to employ an individual who does not have the appropriate permission to work in the UK. Civil and criminal penalties can be imposed.

Criminal liability arises where an employer knowingly employs an individual without the appropriate permission to work in the UK. Civil liability arises if an employer has negligently employed an individual without the appropriate permission to work in the UK. Civil liability can be avoided if, prior to the start of employment, certain checks have been performed.

In Baroness Scotland's case she was found to have negligently employed an individual. Whilst she had taken steps to check the employee's documents, she had failed to keep copies of those documents.

In practice

This well publicised case is a stark reminder to all employers of the importance of carrying out the required checks in every case. The documents that an employer can rely upon as evidence of the appropriate permission to work in the UK are many and varied and this case readily emphasises that not only should documents be checked, but copies should also be retained.

The Border and Immigration Agency has produced detailed guidance for employers. To view the guidance click here. The guidance is quite hefty.

Also, it is worth mentioning that employers should be careful when requesting documentation for the purposes of carrying out checks that they do not act in a discriminatory way. 

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