Kevin James - The IT Control Specialists

    Illegal Workers in the Construction Industry

    With the recent American Election throwing up such a wide array of scandals, it may well be the case that some of the many reported allegations labelled against Donald Trump managed to fly under the radar. One of these such examples spans back to 1980, when he has demolishing and clearing the Bonwit Building to make space for the Trump Tower in the Heart of Manhattan, NYC.


    He was conscious that the cost of real estate tax would be exorbitant if the work was not completed on time. It was this factor which motivated him to seek out workers who would work significantly faster; working longer hours under less safe working conditions; in order to bring the project in on time.

    TIME magazine reports that the evidence clearly shows Donald Trump was aware, and even actively sought out, Polish illegal immigrant workers in order to exploit them for these reasons. In order to do this successfully, he put a number of defensive barriers between himself and the operations: working through contractors, and then subcontractors who were responsible for their own staffing.

    “I hire a contractor. The contractor then hires the subcontractor,” he said. “They have people. I don’t know. I don’t remember, that was so many years ago, 35 years ago.”


    An End to the Exploitation of Migrant Workers

    This story is in no way an extreme or rare case. Over the past twenty years many thousands of companies in the UK alone have resolved to employ legal or illegal migrant workers in order to complete work in shorter timescales, at a reduced budget and with fewer costs associated with health and safety.

    In many cases these have largely been overlooked, thanks to the nature of the construction industry: with a huge throughput of workers and a significant amount of document fraud, as well as the short-term nature of the work in most cases and the relatively low chance of being ‘found-out’, the industry has always been largely associated with immigrant workers.

    While for a long time this trend was just accepted by the Industry and its regulators, in 2014 the government at large set out with a clear goal to stop this trend in its tracks. Following wider research into the impact of illegal workers on industries, such as the relative decline in safety records and the increased risk to other workers, a new act was passed in parliament.

    “The Immigration Act 2014 doubled the civil penalty for employers that employ an illegal worker either knowingly, or with reasonable grounds for suspicion. An employer can now be fined up to £20,000 for each illegal worker employed, with the new maximum penalty better reflecting the harm caused by employing illegal workers, including the costs to wider society and the unfair economic advantage derived from the activity.”


    The Right to Work

    In line with the updates to the fines and penalties which employers are liable for, the act also introduces new protections for employers. If an employer has taken the required steps to employ a contractor, they are then no longer at risk of fines or prosecutions.


    These steps have been produced by the Home Office and are known as ‘Right to Work’ checks or a ‘Statutory Excuse’. This specifies that employers should:

    • See the applicant’s original documents;
    • Check that the documents are valid with the applicant present, either in person or a via an online platform such as Skype;
    • Make and keep copies of the documents and record the date you made the check.

    This checking process has been designed to be manageable on a day-to-day basis. It also means that companies have the responsibility to ensure it is done for every single employee. Due to the shortness and relative ease of the process, it applies to all employees, including those employed through contractors and sub-contractors.

    Claims of ignorance as to the new rules or lack of insight into the practices of external companies are no longer a valid excuse. The enforcement of the 2014 act means that large fines can be applied to any company in the chain which does not make these checks before employment.

    “The global trend towards outsourcing and cut-price contracting has made it too convenient for main contractors to duck out of their responsibilities by blaming the subcontractor. Contractors who take that line risk reputational damage and are liable to incur significant financial penalties, delays and site shutdowns.”

    Chris Blythe, chief executive at the CIOB (The Chartered Institute of Building)


    Operation Magnify: Heating up the UK Construction Industry

    In August of last year (2015), work towards a nationwide campaign to halt the employment of illegal workers in the construction industry began. October 2015 saw a week of interventions that targeted 153 construction sites across England and Wales, which resulted in over 250 arrests and nine ongoing investigations.


    Led by the Home office, the initiative targeted a mix of projects in Slough, Berkshire; Hounslow, West London; Newham and East London. This included a number of small-scale sites such as residential conversions, high-street shop fitters and domestic extensions. This was also run in-line with a move to uncover rogue landlords and people living in unregulated housing (such as sheds).

    Around 40 of the projects visited were larger multi-million-pound projects behind the hoardings of major contractors, ranging across new build and refurbishment projects, the commercial sector and publicly funded works. The scale of the programme was designed to put the issue firmly on the industry’s agenda and prompt senior management to review their processes.


    The UK Law says…

    The new Immigration Act introduced in 2014 is very clear as to the risks and penalites faced by companies who do not carry out the required checks.


    You can be sent to jail for 5 years and pay an unlimited fine if you’re found guilty of employing someone who you knew or had ‘reasonable cause to believe’ didn’t have the right to work in the UK.

    • This includes, for example, if you had any reason to believe that:
    • They didn’t have leave (permission) to enter or remain in the UK
    • Their leave had expired
    • They weren’t allowed to do certain types of work
    • Their papers were incorrect or false


    Check your employees properly

    You can also be penalised if you employ someone who doesn’t have the right to work and you didn’t do the correct checks, or you didn’t do them properly.

    If this happens, you might get a ‘referral notice’ to let you know your case is being considered and that you might have to pay a civil penalty (fine) of up to £20,000 for each illegal worker.

    You’ll be sent a ‘civil penalty notice’ if you’re found liable and you’ll have 28 days to respond.

    The notice will tell you how to pay, what to do next, and how to object to the decision.

    Your business’s details may be published by Immigration Enforcement as a warning to other businesses not to employ illegal workers.



    Right to work information (A5 Flyer)

    Right to Work checks can be carried out with the Gov.Uk website


    Solving this Permanently.

    PROStruction meets this challenge directly by ensuring all workers have the proper documentation. This means that any company using the PROStruction solution is protected against all forms of fines and prosecution.

    To learn more about this solution and how it meets this challenge head on, please click here.

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