On 14 October 2015, Immigration Minister James Brokenshire announced ‘Operation Magnify’, an enforcement campaign targeting illegal working in the construction industry. Ref gov.uk 14 October 2015. This will involve Home Office enforcement officers targeting construction businesses that employ and exploit illegal migrant workers.
The government suggest that skill shortages, reliance on transient labour and forged identity documents expose the construction industry to the risk of illegal employment. In the last Parliament the government doubled the maximum civil penalty for non-compliant employers to £20,000 for each illegal worker employed, and the proposed Immigration Act will introduce further criminal offences.
The government has also taken action to make ‘Right to Work’ checks easier to carry out. Under the Right to Work, employers must check job applicants are allowed to work for them before they are employed. This involves checking worker’s original documents with the worker present, keeping copies of documents and keeping a record of the date the check was made. See Right to work for more information.
Brokenshire said, “Illegal working undermines legitimate employers, harms the reputation of the industry, drives down wages and denies employment to hard-working UK citizens and people who are working in the UK legally. Employers within the construction industry have a critical role to play in helping to combat this by ensuring they carry out the straightforward ‘Right to Work’ checks on potential employees that prevent illegal working in the UK.
Gillian Econopouly, Head of Policy and Research at the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) said, “Workers without the correct health and safety qualifications pose a serious safety issue to those on site, and the general public. We have found cases where illegal workers have used fake health and safety documents to get onsite, and we are working with government to stamp this out in the construction sector.”
Chartered Institute of Buildings (CIOB) chief executive Chris Blythe welcomed the enforcement campaign, arguing that the construction industry is creating the conditions where workers can be employed illegally and exploited as modern slaves. Blythe said, “We welcome the government’s commitment to help tackle illegal working in the construction industry. Migrants without the right to work become vulnerable and, as our industry tells us, are at serious risk of injury, exploitation and human rights abuses.” Ref Construction Manager 16 October 2015.
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