Over the past year fines for companies found to be employing illegal workers has doubled from £11.2m to £22.1m. In correlation to this the UK Border Agency also issued over a thousand more civil penalties in 2009 (2210) than they did in 2008 (1164).

The resulting advice which comes from these figures is that all employers and recruiters must conduct thorough checks of all potential employees. Crystal Umbrella believes that the most basic checks are often missed, for example checking someone’s nationality by asking to view their passport.

It is the view of Crystal Umbrella that if the necessary systems are not employed now to prevent the employment of illegal workers then recruiters and employers will find themselves subject to the tougher penalties under the present clampdown.

Back in 2008, a new system was introduced by the government with the aim of reducing the number of individuals employed illegally in the UK. Under this system, the UK Border Agency had the power to issue civil penalties of up to £10,000 in respect of every illegal worker employed by any recruiter or employer.

This system is now being used more and more frequently by the UK Border Agency which shows how serious this issue continues to be. The fines issued are so far not working as a deterrent to those that continue to employ illegal workers – either knowingly or by failing to carry out the necessary checks to confirm legal status.

Prior to the introduction of this system, back in 2007 only 38 employers were prosecuted for the employment of illegal immigrants. The increase in the number of prosecutions during 2008 alone equates to an increase of 2963%.

Crystal Umbrella’s Scott Illingsworth believes that non-compliance with identity checking is becoming an increasing risk for recruiters and employers. However, it is likely that the fines for non-compliance will continue to rise as the tackling of illegal workers is at the top of the agenda for the new government.

The requirement is on recruiters and employers to carry out checks on each individual’s legal status. However, many of the paper based checks which are conducted are not actually fit for purpose. It would also seems that many employers fail to meet this obligation altogether.

The UK Border Agency can still issue fines if it deems the checks that were carried out were insufficient. This means that even if an employee has had a face to face interview and their passport has been viewed they could still be liable for fines if the individual is found to be here illegally.

There has been a call for the introduction of an automated system which would check an individual’s identity across a number of different sources including biometric passport data. This means employers would be guaranteed accurate information as all too often an individual checking a passport may be unable to determine its authenticity but biometric data cannot be forged.

Of course, even with the introduction of such measures the onus would still be on each recruiter and employer to actually use the systems at their disposal.

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