Welcome! Now show me your ID.
It’s important that employers are careful about checking the work eligibility of their new recruits. Failure to do so – resulting in the employment of an illegal worker – can lead to an unlimited fine and imprisonment.
But don’t over-react to this risk. There are certain sectors where it is high – for example, where casual and/or unskilled work is on offer. However, if this doesn’t apply to your organisation we recommend that you take a measured approach and don’t frisk and interrogate every candidate who crosses your threshold!
You will be in breach of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act if you pay an illegal migrant for any work that they do. This doesn’t mean that you will be in breach if you give them a job offer or even a contract. Both will be invalidated if the individual subsequently fails to produce documentary evidence of their right to work.
If you have a policy on checking eligibility documents for all candidates it’s possible that this is a time consuming administrative burden for you. It’s also a rather intimidating experience for the candidate, and will not help them to relax. (You know how it goes … you’re a perfectly decent law abiding citizen, but when you see a policeman your palms start sweating and you can’t even count to ten.) So you must ask yourself if the exercise can be withheld until an offer is on the table, or until the new employee shows up for work on Day 1. We recommend this last approach because the eligibility check is just one of a number of checks that need to take place in the early days of employment. It makes some sense to incorporate it into your induction.
The legislation expects you to exercise your best endeavours in verifying the work eligibility of your employees, but it doesn’t mistake you for law enforcement. The enforcement follows, and can be managed quite easily following the guidelines. Be aware of this when establishing recruitment protocols in your business – particularly if these veer towards the bureaucratic. What message does this send to candidates? That we like to do paperwork around here? That you’re guilty until proven innocent? While you’re busy checking that Mr Bloggs is who he says he is, Mr Bloggs is imagining that if he joins you he’ll be putting up his hand when he wants to visit the bathroom.
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