Baroness Scotland - ??5000 fine
There has been a lot in the press recently regarding the risk of employing illegal workers. There was the furore around Baroness Scotland who was fined ??5000 by the UK Border Agency for employing a housekeeper whose visa had expired. And just this month, Eurocom CI, the employee vetting company warned that there was an increase in illegal immigrants entering the UK.
Couple that with recent research from the CIPD which says that one in five employers have recruited migrant workers in the last three months and it is easy to see how people can so easily slip through the net.
Audit agenciesThis obviously represents a huge risk to the end users of agency workers because contrary to popular belief, its not just the agency that can be prosecuted but also the end users. So how can you mitigate your legal risk while still getting the job done?
The very first thing that you should be doing is auditing your agency on a regular basis says Karen Furminger, a former HR manager of a reputable food manufacturer. You need an agency that has a 100% commitment to compliance and ethical practices and if you are using workers to provide services in agriculture, forestry, horticulture, shellfish gathering and food processing and packaging both the agency and the end user must, legally, be licenced by the GLA. (Gangmasters Licencing Authority).
The Authority has strict criteria and you should audit your agency on a regular basis against these details can be found at their website www.gla.gov.uk. Its not just the fact that you could be prosecuted as an end user but your contracts with your customers could also be affected if it is found that you have been party to worker exploitation or employing illegal workers - even unknowingly.
ChecklistIt's a good idea to check whether your agency employs multilingual staff in order to help candidates whose first language may not be English. In addition, check that all candidates are supplied with a handbook outlining the registration process; legislation such as the working time directive and taxation rules as well as the payment and timesheet process. And importantly, check that the agency provides hygiene, health, and safety training.
Check that your agency has sight of all passports and visas and that they check thoroughly in line with Border Agency guidelines. Make sure that they take into account the type of visa a candidate holds, and the limitations which may be imposed by such a visa. Additionally, find out if they check with the Home Office Employer Checking Service who will then confirm the validity of the candidates details.
Also, choose an agency that has a compliance officer trained in spotting fake ID and that they have an established relationship with the immigration office so that queries can be checked quickly by phone. And finally, ensure that they monitor the life of a visa flagging up those that are expiring or due to expire - interestingly in Baroness Scotlands case, the candidates student visa had expired five years previously.
Choosing your recruitment suppliers
Were trying to go one step further and have developed a bespoke system called Goldtime. The system utilises a swipe in swipe out card system for temporary workers. The card stores all their verified ID and compliance information. Until we have all that information verified by suing the checks outlined above, a temporary worker cannot be issued with a swipe card and will not be supplied to any employer.
In an era where your corporate reputation can mean the difference between securing a contract or being completely frozen out, it is vital that the British industry looks carefully at its recruitment suppliers and chooses those who are setting the benchmark of ethical and legal practices.