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Fines for employing illegal workers double

Fines for employing illegal workers double as employers slip up on identity checks

 Fines almost double from 11.2m to 22.1m in a year
 UK Border Agency Issue 2,210 civil penalties in 2009 up from 1,164 in 2008

Recruiters and employers need to carry out more thorough checks of job candidates as the number of fines for employing illegal workers doubled in 2009, according to data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by giant precision, the web based back office solutions provider to the recruitment industry.

According to giant precision, this crackdown comes at a time when many recruiters and employers fail to undertake even the most basic checks, such as verifying candidates nationality from their passports.

According to giant precision, recruiters and employers need to urgently put in place systems to ensure candidates are eligible to work in the UK or risk falling foul of this clampdown.

The Government introduced a new system in March 2008 to try and reduce the number of illegal workers in the UK. This new system gave the UK Border Agency the power to issue civil penalties of 10,000 to employers for every illegal worker.

In 2009 the UK Border Agency imposed 2,210 civil penalties on employers of illegal workers totalling 22.1 million. This is almost double the number of civil penalties issued in 2008 when 1,164 civil penalties were issued, worth 11.2 million in fines.

That is 1,046 more penalty notices and 10.9 million more in fines issued in just one year.

The year before the new civil penalty system was brought in, there were only 38 prosecutions for employing illegal immigrants. This means that there was a 2,963% increase in prosecutions in the first year of the new system alone.

Matthew Brown, Managing Director, of giant precision comments: These figures show that identity checking is fast becoming one of the biggest compliance risks for employers and recruitment suppliers.

With immigration an increasingly thorny political issue, the level of fines for employing illegal workers is likely to rise still further. The manual, paper-based identity checks which recruiters and HR departments often still rely on, need to be adapted to this new reality.

The law requires that both recruiters and employers carry out background checks for new employees to ensure that they are permitted to work in the UK. However, giant precision says that the checks carried out are often only cursory and some recruiters and employers are lax in meeting this obligation.

According to giant precision, the UK Border Agency can still levy fines if it deems identity checks were not sufficiently rigorous. Currently, very few employers and recruiters do much more than meet candidates face-to-face and ask to see their passports. Even if basic passport checks are carried out, employers and recruiters could be fined if mistakes are made.

Matthew Brown says: Recruiters and employers need to start putting in place automated processes which check the identity of candidates against a wealth of independent data sources, including address records, registers of births and deaths, as well as financial information and checks with the Criminal Records Bureau.

An automated system can also check the biometric data on passports, which is almost impossible to forge. If discrepancies are uncovered, an automated system should be capable of authenticating identity documents - a task a person alone might not be able to perform even when facing an unsophisticated forgery.

He adds: With identity checking often conducted in a piecemeal manner, an automated web-based system not only has the virtue of better meeting regulatory requirements, but it can also save considerable back office time and costs as well as providing a clear audit trail for compliance reviews.


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