The news is full of hype about the influx of workers from Romania and Bulgaria now that restrictions have been lifted. There are also reports about opportunist employers rubbing their hands together in anticipation of taking advantage of these and other workers who may not understand UK employment legislation.
It may be that employers, facing tough times themselves, would consider offering work without providing the relevant rights to their workers. But, everyone is entitled to holiday pay and Statutory Sick Pay and it’s not something that employees can agree to waive. There are also the rights to breaks from work as well as a myriad of other statutory rights that workers arriving from other counties may not be aware of. Even if they are they may be happy to ignore them in return for their first job. So it’s easy to see how some employers might risk bending the rules.
Employers that are considering taking on migrant workers should understand that all of the normal employment legislation applies and in cases where the National Minimum wage is not paid it is not necessarily the employee who takes the case to a tribunal, HMRC will also do it on the employee’s behalf.
HMRC can insist all arrears are paid and can also issue a penalty of up to £5,000 for each offence. Their latest tactic may be even worse than the fine as HMRC are able to name and shame any employer who has been issued with a Notice of Underpayment. Until recently before HMRC could go down the name and shame route they had to work through seven criteria to make sure that the employer had been deliberate in his actions, however since the end of last year the only criteria is that a Notice of Underpayment has been issued.
There have recently been other, well publicised, issues surrounding Zero hours contracts and their potential for abuse. The government has given its backing to the use of Zero Hours contracts, but employers must be aware that there is case law around abuses of these contracts and professional advice should be sought before their inception.
It is equally important for employers to make sure that their potential new employees are actually who they say they are and that they have the right to work in the UK and to avoid claims of discrimination all employees should be checked equally.
The important thing for all businesses to remember is employing illegal workers caries two potential sanctions, the civil charge which provides for a penalty of up to £10,000 per illegal worker and the criminal charge which carries a fine of up to £10,000 or two years imprisonment.
Our BQ Bulletin emails will land in your inbox at 7.30am, Monday to Friday, with a mix of the latest local business news, national news, and features to inspire you. Sign up here!
Click here to read our privacy statement