Let's Stamp out illegal Employment in the Construction Industry
The construction industry here in the UK is one of the safest in the world to work in due to our stringent health and safety legislation and strict enforcement of these rules. This attracts people from all over Europe who come to the UK to work but the construction sector is particularly at risk of illegal employment due to the current skills shortage (which we’ve highlighted several times recently). This means that the industry is often reliant on transient labourers who use forged identity documents in order to gain access to work. There are employers who don’t worry too much about checking that all members of their workforce are entitled to work here and they often have an unfair advantage over more reputable companies who play by the rules.
Moreover, these unscrupulous employers are guilty of exploiting illegal workers which drives down wages, denies employment to hard working citizens and tarnishes the reputation of the industry as a whole. While there has been progress made in tackling the problem of illegal workers, there is still more work to be done in order to stamp out illegal working and maintain the integrity of the sector. Of course, it’s not just the construction industry that’s to blame for employing illegal workers, but it is one of the highest risk sectors.
The government has been collaborating with employers within the construction sector to tackle this issue and in October a countrywide enforcement initiative was launched targeting the sectors most likely to employ and exploit illegal migrant workers. This initiative is backed up by the new Immigration Bill that’s currently passing through parliament which aims at controlling the immigration system to ensure that it is more effective. In the future there will be tougher punishments meted out to those who employ illegal workers and tougher sanctions will make it more difficult for people to live and work in the UK illegally.
However, employers within the construction industry also have a role to play in solving this problem. Compliance with immigration laws can be achieved by ensuring that “Right to Work” checks are carried out to make sure employees do have the right to work in the UK. The rules have been simplified to make this easier and there’s been a reduction in the range of documents necessary.
Failure to comply will see employers using illegal labour being prosecuted and those convicted will face tougher sentences. The maximum civil penalty for each illegal worker employed has been doubled to £20,000 so there’s a real financial incentive to comply with the law. The Immigration Bill will also allow employers who flout the law to have their businesses closed and illegal workers face having their earnings seized.
The construction industry has worked hard to improve all aspects of health and safety in the workplace – those who employ illegal workers who are both unskilled and lack the correct training will jeopardise this which would be bad news for the industry as a whole.