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Employers could face imprisonment and fines of tens of thousands of pounds unless they are able to prove they took all reasonable steps to check their staff have a legal right to live and work in the UK.

The warning comes from Phil Brown, of online HR toolkit creators Youmanage, amid new tough government measures designed as ‘part of the biggest immigration shake up for 40 years’.

Under the new Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006, which has just come into effect, employers could face up to two years behind bars and / or a fine of up to £10,000 for each illegal immigrant found to be working on their premises.

Mr Brown warned employers across the country it was now more important than ever not only to carry out stringent background checks before taking on a new employee, but to keep a record of those checks as concrete evidence.

Speaking of the new measures Immigration Minister Liam Byrne said: “Illegal working attracts illegal migrants and undercuts British wages. The message is clear for employers – we will not tolerate illegal working.”

Phil Brown, Managing Director of Youmanage, said: “The government is really cracking down on businesses which knowingly employ illegal immigrants which is why it is so important now to not only make checks on anyone you recruit, but also to be able to produce hard evidence demonstrating that you made those checks before taking that person on.

“Just this month a business owner in Bury whose premises were raided by immigration officers was fined £2,000 after admitting four charges of employing illegal workers. Although two of his staff had produced false documents he was still punished as he took them at face value and did not keep a copy of them and was therefore unable to prove he had made stringent checks.

“Unless you are able to demonstrate you are taking all reasonable steps to ensure your workers have the right to live and work here legally you are effectively jeopardising the whole future of your business. This can be particularly difficult for larger businesses and those spread across multiple locations, where they are reliant on individual managers making the necessary checks.”

The Youmanage online HR toolkit offers a single source solution to help organisations manage all aspects of an employee’s lifecycle - from the recruitment process to exit interview. It supports both HR teams and line managers, making it easier to track tasks and share information across an organisation.

The system includes the functionality to automatically create checklists for new starters, enabling both line managers and central HR departments to track whether mandatory checks have been completed. Copies of important documents such as passports, visas and driving licenses can be uploaded and stored against the employee’s record.

The module also gives users comprehensive guidance on the latest relevant legislation, including age discrimination and immigration laws.

Mr Brown urged all businesses to protect themselves by keeping up to date with the laws and to make stringent checks on every applicant, keeping a thorough record of those checks.

He said: “The tough penalties imposed under this new Act are enough to force some businesses to close. As of now anyone found employing illegal immigrants has to be able to prove they showed diligence in carrying out the necessary checks.

“Having the necessary tools to carry out those checks and demonstrate that you have been diligent could mean the difference between continuing to trade as normal or losing your livelihood altogether.”

Editor’s Note:

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