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Migrant workers and those organisations that use and rely on them are under the spotlight as never before. The most up-to-date figures published for 1 April-30 June 2015 show £2,000,000 worth of fines being issued in London and the South East alone.
According to the data published by the Home Office, the majority of the companies hit by fines have been restaurants, pubs, shops, and small businesses such as dry cleaners and car washes. Given the size of the businesses - a fine of £20,000 per illegal worker would almost certainly have significant consequences to the business involved.
In addition to the vital Right to Work checks that all employers must undertake for every person that they employ, a sponsor of Tier 2 migrants has additional record keeping and reporting duties. As the above figures indicate, the Home Office is clamping down on compliance issues - with the number of unannounced visits on the increase.
Don't be caught out - what to expect from an unannounced inspection
An inspection can involve examination of a sponsor's compliance with the full range of their duties and responsibilities. In particular, it will look at:
information given by the company in support of its application for a sponsorship licence is accurate and complete;
the company is genuine and trading, or operating lawfully in the UK;
the company is committed to, and actually are, complying with all the duties of sponsorship;
the company has met its notification obligations, which include (amongst other things) updating the Home Office when a sponsored worker's role changes, or when they are absent from work.
As part of any inspection, Home Office staff may speak to any migrant workers and other employees. The Home Office will also review records and systems to ensure full compliance with sponsor obligations and the Immigration Rules, the content of which is regularly updated.
Getting things wrong
Failure by a sponsor to comply with its obligations or the Immigration Rules can have serious consequences.
The Home Office could suspend or revoke a sponsor licence. Revocation would prevent a sponsor from continuing to employ migrant workers and will curtail the leave of all sponsored workers.
If the Home Office considers that a sponsor has been employing people illegally, it may issue a civil penalty of up to £20,000 for each illegal worker.
If it considers that a sponsor has knowingly employed an illegal worker, it may prosecute Key Personnel who, if found guilty, could be liable to two years' imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine. Failures identified and action taken can also adversely affect a company's ability to obtain credit.
How VWV can help
Our immigration team regularly advise employers on how to conduct Right to Work checks, and how to minimise the risk of a civil penalty for employing a worker who does not have the right to work in the UK. In addition, for those clients with sponsor licences, we can:
advise on the employer's reporting obligations to the Home Office;
provide compliance checklists setting out the action that an employer needs to take to protect itself;
conduct a pre-inspection review of the employer's business in order to review compliance with the Immigration Rules and to review existing policies and procedures;
provide training to HR staff and migrant workers regarding their obligations - and what to expect during a Home Office inspection.