Baroness Scotland, who was a Home Office minister when laws were passed to fine bosses who employ illegal workers up to £10,000, has herself been fined after being found to have employed a housekeeper who was not allowed to work in the UK.
It is understood that the lady she employed arrived in the UK in 2003 on a temporary visa which has since expired. Baroness Scotland says she hired her housekeeper in good faith and saw documents which led her to believe that she was entitled to work in this country, but failed to make and keep copies of relevant documents as required by the law.
Unfortunately, this is not sufficient defence under the terms of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act, which states not only that employers who knowingly take on an illegal worker face a two-year prison sentence and an unlimited fine, but that those who unknowingly (our italics) take on illegal workers face a maximum £10,000 fine.
Although her housekeeper was registered for tax and national insurance prior to her being hired and the attorney general had paid tax and national insurance on her wages, a spokesman for the Immigration Advisory Service explained: ‘The perusal of a National Insurance certificate in itself is insufficient to escape a civil penalty’.
So what can you do to protect yourself in this situation, and ensure that you are following the law? As an employer, you must ask prospective employees to produce a document, or documents, from one of two lists if you are to ensure that they can work for you legally and so that you can establish a statutory excuse (‘the excuse’) against payment of a civil penalty.
Documents provided from List A establish that the person has an ongoing entitlement to work in the UK; documents from List B indicate that the applicant or employee has restrictions on their entitlement to be in the UK.
To find out more, visit our website and download our free HR resource A guide to the prevention of illegal working.
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