24 May 2013
Employing aliens? No, not green men from Mars. Under the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006, it is a criminal offence to knowingly employ a person who is not legally entitled to work in the UK. On conviction there is a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment and/or a fine. There are also civil penalties of up to £10,000 for employers who do so, unless they can show that:
- The employer took all reasonable steps to check the validity of specified documents;
- And the employer kept copies of those documents and retained them for not less than two years after the employment came to an end.
Employers should carry out the same checks for all staff, regardless of apparent origin, both to ensure legal compliance and to apply their equal opportunities policy consistently.
The checks that employers have to carry out can be complicated and confusing. It’s not necessarily enough to check a passport, visa or national insurance number for example. The rules on employing workers from new EU countries are not always straightforward either.
The government has a useful guide for employers at www.gov.uk/legal-right-to-work-in-the-uk which guides employers through the checklist and tells employers which copy documents they need to take to ensure compliance, depending on the status of the applicant. It’s well worth checking out as the cost of getting it wrong could be substantial.