Byron raided by Home Office:
Are you sure your staff have the right to work in the UK?
The burger chain Byron has been in the press recently for allegedly inviting staff to health and safety training at which they were interviewed by immigration officers. According to press reports, 35 of Byron’s employees were arrested at its restaurants across London as the Home Office suspected that they did not have the right to work in the UK.
Regardless of whether you agree with how the matter was allegedly handled by the company, the case is an example of the Home Office taking steps to track down illegal workers, as well as the importance of checking workers’ right to work in the UK. Currently, people from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) must have some form of permission to live and work in the UK and employers must check that all staff have the right to do the job they are being offered before they start work. This involves checking each person’s passport and, for those who are not from the EEA, checking their visa or other document giving them permission to work. When conducting the check, employers must check that the documents are genuine, the photograph and date of birth are consistent with the person’s appearance, that the visa has not expired and allows the person to do the job. If an employer does this then they will have a “statutory excuse” in respect of that worker. Where the worker has limited permission to work here (for example if they are on some kind of visa) then you will also need to carry out a repeat check in the same way when their visa expires.
The consequences of getting this wrong can be severe – employing an illegal worker without a statutory excuse could lead to a civil a penalty of up to £20,000 per illegal worker. In addition, it is a criminal offence punishable by an unlimited fine and up to five years in prison if you employ someone who you know or have reasonable cause to believe is an illegal worker. If you are given a false document, you will only be liable for a civil penalty if it is reasonably apparent that it is false (i.e. if a person who is untrained in the identification of false documents, examining it carefully but briefly and without the use of technological aids, could reasonably be expected to realise that it is not genuine). Employers will not be able to rely on a statutory excuse if they knew that the document was false, that it did not rightfully belong to the holder, or the work was not permitted.
According to the press reports, it appears that Byron had carried out right to work checks on all of its staff and so it had statutory excuses in place, even though some employees had presented forged documents and so were working illegally, and so it has escaped what could have been a rather large civil penalty.
Doyle Clayton’s immigration team regularly provides training to our clients on right to work checks and Home Office audits. Please contact us if you are interested in scheduling training or a mock audit or if you have concerns about the right to work process within your organisation.
Contact the immigration team via email: firstname.lastname@example.org, telephone 020 7329 9090 or complete the form on the left of the page.
The articles published on this website, current at the date of publication, are for reference purposes only. They do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your own circumstances should always be sought separately before taking any action.