The issue of migrant workers has become very sensitive in recent years. The right to freedom of movement within the EU is a fundamental plank of the original agreement. Many UK employers want to keep that right because they cannot get UK staff willing or able to take on work. On the other hand, Britain is a small, very overcrowded island with an ageing population and considerable pressure on resources.
Net migration rose by 50% to 318,000 last year - with sharp increases from inside and outside the EU. A total of 641,000 people moved to the UK in 2014, the Office for National Statistics said. The Government said intends to maintain its target of reducing net migration below 100,000.
In addition to the original European objectives, we’re now having to deal with the additional pressures of the Libyan boat people.
So the subject is something of a poisoned chalice. Following the election George Osborne is considering launching a Treasury study into the economic impact on Britain if the European Union is reformed, as well as the ramifications of an exit from the 28-member bloc.
David Cameron has promised to introduce an immigration bill that will make ‘Britain a less attractive place to work illegally’. It is estimated that there are 300,000 people in Britain who have overstayed their visas and whose whereabouts is unknown. Of this figure it is not known how many are working illegally.
Employers are under a duty to ensure that a person has the right to work in the UK before he starts working for them. The Government has listed the documents which are deemed acceptable to prove someone has the right to work in the UK.
Some people will have an ongoing right to work in the UK. To prove this the person must provide you with a document from List A. Most commonly this is a passport showing the holder is a British citizen or a citizen of the UK and Colonies having the right to abode in the UK, or a passport showing the holder is a national of a European Economic Area country or Switzerland. You must be given the original documents and you must check the validity of the document in the presence of the holder. You must then make and retain a copy, sign it and record the date the check was made.
Some people may be allowed to work in the UK but only for a limited period of time. You should be provided with a document from List B as proof of this. Again, you must carry out the same checking and recording process. When the right to work expires you are under a duty to check this again. If the individual no longer has the right to work in the UK you may follow a process to dismiss him.
By properly following the process you will have a statutory excuse against any payment of a civil penalty should it be found that you are employing an illegal worker. If you do not properly follow the process or it is reasonably apparent that the documents are false, you could be fined up to £20,000 per illegal worker. If you are found to have knowingly employed an illegal worker you could face up to two years in jail as well as a fine.
Migrants with current leave to remain but working illegally may be prosecuted under the Immigration Act 1971. They may then face a six month custodial sentence and/or an unlimited fine. There is currently a loophole for those who have overstayed their leave or entered illegally as they are not subject to the current conditions of stay. The new bill would address this, applying to those who arrived illegally or those who have entered the UK legally but then overstayed.
Illegal working will also become a criminal offence in its own right. Any wages that are paid to illegal immigrants will be seized as proceeds of crime. Businesses will be told when visas expire, meaning that if you are involved in illegal working, either as the employer or employee, you will be breaking the law.
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