Attorney General failed to keep illegal immigrant's papers

The high-profile case of Attorney General Baroness Scotland, who employed an illegal immigrant, has thrown into focus a grey area of responsibility for employers in issuing employment contracts for foreign workers.

When the barrister peer was fined £5,000 for hiring a Tongan housekeeper she became the first person to be punished for breaching immigration rules which she helped frame as a Home Office minister. All other prosecutions have covered companies.

Lady Scotland said she checked the woman's papers which appeared to show the former student had been allowed to stay in the UK, although it was subsequently proved she did not have a visa. However, the government minister failed to keep copies of the immigrant's paperwork and it was for that breach of the law she was fined.

Commenting on the imposition of the civil penalty on the law chief, Chief Executive of the UK Border Agency Lin Homer said, "The law requires that employers must keep copies of documents proving the right to work in the UK and, in this instance, the employer failed to meet this requirement.

"Our priority in enforcement against employers is to identify employers who knowingly flout the rules, often on a continual basis and often on a large scale. However, under immigration law any employer found to have employed people with no right to work here can face a civil penalty."

A variable rate of fine can be imposed depending on the circumstances of a case. Employers who co-operate with investigations, who have no previous record of employing people illegally, or who can show they made some effort to check the status of an employee, are not normally fined at the maximum level of £10,000.

Although there are official figures for the number of foreigners who are living and working in the UK, the numbers without valid visas are only estimated but any employer who gives work to an illegal immigrant will be liable for penalties.

Guidance on employment contracts for foreign workers is available from a number of official sources, including the UK Border Agency, which is part of the Home Office. Different rules apply to EU nationals and those from outside the EU.

Information on complying with the regulations applying to foreign workers can be found on the employers' section of the UK Border Agency website or by calling the employers' helpline on 0300 123 4699.

Using an employment law solicitor to oversee contracts

Specialist solicitors can provide advice on all employment contracts, visa requirements and foreign workers.

JMW Solicitors regularly provides services to companies in many sectors regarding the drafting of contracts of employment and other matters regarding employees. We are able to draft bespoke documents or advise on existing documents, and identify the legal implications of new and existing legislation.

All our employment law services are tailored to your individual business needs and delivered in a cost-effective and timely manner. Should you wish to discuss the ways in which JMW Solicitors could contribute to your business' legal needs, from recruitment to redundancy, please contact us on 0345 872 6666 or use our online enquiry form.

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