Q: I am about to advertise for workers to help in my landscaping business. We have a lot of foreign nationals looking for work in this area and I am happy to take them on but I am worried about whether they are in the country legally. What checks should I do to ensure the worker is in the country legitimately and that I am not breaking the law in any way?
A: All employers have a duty to check that any new employees they engage are entitled to work in the UK. If you get any applicants from the European Economic Area (EEA) when you advertise the jobs you should confirm their nationality by asking them to provide their passport or national identity card. Check that the document is an original, untampered with, valid document and, take copies for your records.
More stringent requirements apply for non-EEA nationals, with the exception of Swiss nationals. If you are negligent in making these checks you may be fined up to £10,000 per illegal employee. If you knowingly employ an illegal employee you could face an unlimited fine and/or imprisonment.
If the employee is Czech, Estonian, Hungarian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Slovakian, Slovenian, Romanian and Bulgarian it is necessary for them to register with the UK Border Agency under the Worker Registration Scheme within one month of starting work. To enable them to do this they will require a letter from you confirming their employment and you should keep a copy of both the letter and the application in your employee files. If the worker fails to apply within one month, or you fail to keep a copy of their application, you may be fined up to £5,000.