The cost of Illegal workers to UK Businesses

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A recent survey by disclosure and barring service provider uCheck reports that UK business were fined £4 million by the Home Office in July-September 2017 for employing illegal workers.

Business owners could face an unlimited fine and a 5-year prison sentence if they knowingly hire someone without the right to work here. And the fine for employing an illegal worker after failing to carry out adequate checks to ensure a legally entitlement to employment, is currently £20,000 per worker.

But despite this, many businesses appear willing to take the risk. The uCheck report, designed to gauge attitudes to illegal workers, surveyed 2800 business owners and found 33.1% of them had sympathy for those trying to make a living - with 11% stating “they deserve the right to work here”. The charity sector was found to be most empathetic, with 52.4% of the sector expressing sympathy, but the legal and public service space were not far behind with 47.4% and 43.4% respectively.

Acting on empathy is proving very costly for UK business, not only due to hefty fines. Aside from the legal costs, organisations face additional expenditure from employing illegal workers.

There is a risk of reputational damage which could prove catastrophic. Clients and customers trust is critical to successful operations, and the scandal of an immigration investigation could result in people taking their business elsewhere.

Many companies have faced temporary halting of business, and therefore loss of profit, because of an investigation or even a raid from immigration enforcement officers. Having to shut down during a profitable time is not only expensive, but also stressful and unpleasant for all involved.

Inadequate safeguarding as well as costly health and safety issues may also arise from employing illegal workers. Invalidated insurance policies and litigation due to on site accidents have driven many companies to bankruptcy.

Compliance is the key to ensuring that your business is protected from inadvertently hiring illegal workers. By ensuring that the correct right to work checks are carried out before employment, you will be able to prove that you have not knowingly employed someone without the right to work here in the event of an investigation. Retain evidence of employees right to work and ensure that all documents are kept up to date.