Spotlight on Illegal Workers in the Construction Industry

Spotlight on Illegal Workers in the Construction Industry

12th April 2017

The Considerate Constructors Scheme (CCS) recently launched a national campaign to increase awareness of illegal workers in the construction industry and promote a wider understanding in the construction industry of the risks posed by illegal construction workers and what can be done in order to tackle this problem.   The CCS monitors construction sites, companies and suppliers here in the UK, making around 18,000 visits every year in order to do so.  In December last year, the CCS undertook a comprehensive survey of the construction industry in a bid to evaluate the issue of illegal work within the sector and the results clearly show that:

·         93% of respondents agreed that the issue of illegal workers could be dealt with in a more effective manner.

·         81% of those surveyed disclosed that they consider that illegal working has increased in the past 15 years.

·         61% revealed that they have not received (or rarely receive) information about working illegally.

·         33% suspect that illegal work had been carried out when working for a current or previous employer.

·         30% agree that health and safety were the greatest risks posed as a result of illegal work.

The CCS was launched in order to improve the image of the construction sector in 1997 and we provided our readers with an overview of the Scheme some time ago.  The Scheme’s latest campaign, Spotlight on Illegal Workers is a response to the urgency of the situation relating to both health and safety on construction sites and the potential exploitation of illegal workers.  Using illegal labour might seem a pretty benign practice, but it’s not a victimless crime and poses health and safety risks for everybody involved with a construction site and can lead to wider abuse including exploitation of workers, tax evasion and breaches of health and safety regulations, especially when illegal workers are not who the claim to be and may not have the skills and knowledge that the profess to possess.

The construction industry here in the UK is currently experiencing a serious skills shortage and is a particular target of illegal workers as it has a high demand for labour.  Employing illegal workers may seem like a tempting quick fix solution at times but the safety risks are severe and it could also result in rendering the insurance policy of the employer or duty holder invalid. 

Illegal working in construction is now a major priority for the Home Office which has collaborated with the industry by providing detailed practical information on how to conduct the requisite right to work checks.  The CCS has introduced new questions in the 2017 Monitors’ Checklist to encourage employers, sites and supply chains to ensure the legitimacy of their employees.  These include asking the following questions:

·         Are there processes in place to ensure that subcontractors (and subsequent subcontractors) are conducting right to work checks?

·         Are physical spot checks carried out to ensure that minimums standards of right to work checks are taking place within the supply chain?

The Spotlight on Illegal Workers Campaign aims to provide the UK construction industry with a “go to” resource that can be used to fully understand and tackle illegal working and ensure that all registered sites, companies and suppliers have robust procedures in place to eradicate this practice.