The Construction Enquirer recently reported that five men had been jailed for a combined total of 30 years for creating and distributing between 50,000 to 100,000 false documents including passports, driving licences and Construction Skills Certification Scheme cards (“CSCS cards”).
During an immigration raid in East London at the end of last year, immigration officers discovered a bedroom which had been converted into a fully equipped factory manufacturing British, European and Indian documents.
It is unclear how many false documents are in circulation but employers are being urged to carry out right to work checks on their construction workers and ensure they have the correct permission to carry out the job in question and also the correct skills.
All UK employers are expected to carry out prescribed document checks on all employees before they start work. Provided that an employer has carried out the appropriate checks, it will have a statutory excuse against liability for a civil penalty, (which is currently £20,000 per illegal worker) if it later comes to light that any worker has been working illegally in the UK.
The Home Office’s right to work guidance states:
“If you are given a false document, you will only be liable for a civil penalty if it is reasonably apparent that it is false. This means that a person who is untrained in the identification of false documents, examining it carefully, but briefly, and without the use of technological aids could reasonably be expected to realise that the document in question is not genuine. You will not be able to rely on a statutory excuse if you knew that the document was false, that it did not rightfully belong to the holder, or the work was not permitted.”
It is therefore vital for construction employers to remain vigilant; any suspicions that a CSCS card is false may also indicate that other right to work documents have been forged.
The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) continues to work closely with the Home Office’s Immigration Enforcement team to raise awareness of fraud in the construction industry. ‘Operation Magnify’ is a sign of the Home Office’s commitment to crackdown on illegal working in the construction industry; this operation launched in 2015/2016 and resulted in immigration raids on 69 construction sites in the UK which led to the arrests of 257 construction laborers who were working illegally at these construction sites.
CITB is urging employers to be vigilant in checking workers’ right to work documentation and asking them to carry out regular checks on cards either using CSCS smart card readers on the CITB online card checker.
The ultimate responsibility for checking documents correctly is the employers – whilst this can be delegated to other staff members, the employer remains liable for civil penalties. It is therefore important that correct training is provided to HR teams so they are aware of how to identify false documents and carry out prescribed document checks correctly.
Our business immigration lawyers regularly provide comprehensive training to HR teams and knowhow seminars to help them understand the importance of carrying out correct checks. If you have been issued with a civil penalty or would like further information on right to work checks, please contact our business immigration team on 020 7539 8000.