By Adrian Black
The UK workforce is becoming increasingly diverse in its makeup, and while undoubtedly this is a good thing, it isn’t without some challenges. Civil penalties set by the UK government have become stricter for those who are employing workers who do not have the right to work in the UK. Research commissioned by immigration law firm, Migrate UK, found that of the companies who hold a sponsor licence (typically those that directly advertise and sponsor workers from outside of Europe to come and work in the UK), up to 95% of small to medium enterprises are at risk of having their sponsor licence for migrant workers revoked, with many others also at risk of being instantly closed by the Home Office.
Financial implications of not conducting Right to Work checks
Fines can stretch up to £20,000 per illegal employee, so the cost of being found to be non compliant is not insignificant. It can have a significant impact on the finances of a business, or the credibility and stability of their HR departments. There’s also the potential for company directors to have to serve a five-year prison sentence, plus the possibility of irreversible damage to your brand reputation. There’s also the risk of loss of earning due to fraud and damage to supplier/customer relations. With this in mind, ‘Right to Work’ compliance can often weigh heavily on an employer’s mind.
Everyone must comply with the Right to Work checks
Whether you hire one person or thousands, have part-time or full-time staff, or are working in the public or private sector, businesses must ensure that all potential and existing employees are considered eligible to work in the UK through mandatory Right to Work checks. The principles seem very straightforward overall. However, carrying out these Right to Work checks can often prove challenging for HR departments.
This is largely due to the fact that the dynamics are changing for how the UK workforce operates. Nowadays a lot of businesses choose to combine a variety of different contracts from flexible working to part-time, home-working to full-time, contractors to temporary staff. This enables a business to have a flexible approach to their staffing, which helps with changing business needs. It can make it difficult when hiring though.
Why it is becoming harder to comply with Right to Work?
HR teams are under growing pressure as a result to hire the right people, make all the necessary checks, and to ensure employees have the legal right to work in the UK. Legislation is regularly changing, and therefore staying abreast of all the developments can be demanding.
Although HR professionals are well-trained, they are increasingly facing the growing trend for fake identity documents being used in job applications. This makes their job even harder and means trying to spot identity fraud while dealing with hundreds of applications is challenging. As these forgeries become more sophisticated it can be hard to spot fraudulent documents. Additionally, with a rise in transient workers, plus the growing ‘gig’ economy, there’s also the increased risk of unwittingly employing illegal workers on a short-term, but equally unlawful, basis.
Moreover, throughout sectors such as hospitality, leisure, warehouses and retail, many HR functions are de-centralised. This means that on-site managers are often responsible for making hiring decisions. Here the risks are even greater as they often don’t have the same training as HR professionals and are not abreast of the legislation. However, this context will hold little sway with the government who are keen to crack down on non compliant workers.
Right to Work checks can save time and reduce human error
Undertaking right to work checks doesn’t have to be complex though, as the process can be handled very easily thanks to technological solutions. With robust, automated processes occurring through a comprehensive solution, the risks are minimised and you don’t need a HR team that constantly stays ahead of legislation. They can also be confident that the Right to Work checks are meeting all current and future legislative requirements.
These systems, such as the likes of the offering from Contego, help to reduce the burden of the manual approach. Document checking is automated, meaning businesses can quickly check, authenticate and retain ID documents in line with the latest immigration legislation.
Electronic scanning provides your team with a consistent, reliable and straightforward way of performing checks without having to be ‘document experts’. The Contego mobile application enables real-time Right to Work validation of employees on the move.
Adrian Black is CEO of Contego