It’s not uncommon for restaurants to be a focal point for immigration raids. Authentic foreign food, often requires talented foreign chefs. However, the case involving the Byron Burger chain prompted an unparalleled response from members of the public, angry at the restaurant’s treatment of its foreign workers.

Protestors released locusts and cockroaches at one of the restaurant’s sites in London in an expression of their disgust at the way the company had colluded with the Home Office to facilitate an immigration raid and the subsequent deportation of 35 workers.

So what happened?

It appears that when carrying out their ‘right to work’ checks (in line with their employment practices) the company was shown false or counterfeit documentation by employees. They only became aware of the immigration offences when contacted by the Home Office about some of their workers. On that basis, the Home Office was satisfied that they weren’t complicit in the breach of immigration laws.

Here is a link to the Home Office guidelines on what constitutes acceptable right to work documents.

What are a company’s obligations when it comes to employing foreign workers?

This recent case highlights the importance of companies ensuring that they carry out proper ‘right to work’ checks and keep a sufficient paper trail to be able to establish a statutory excuse to avoid a civil penalty. The fine is a pretty hefty too, at £20,000 per worker it makes financial sense to get good business immigration advice.

It has been an offence to employ an illegal worker since 2006, but the offence was recently amended to fall within section 35 of the Immigration Act 2016, which came into effect on 12th July 2016.

An employer commits an offence if he employs an illegal worker and knows (or has reasonable cause to believe) that the person has no right to do the work in question. This means that an employer can no longer evade prosecution where the investigating agency cannot prove that the employer knew that the employee had no permission to work. The amended offence enables employers to be prosecuted where they have reasonable cause to believe that the employee could not undertake the employment, even where they have deliberately ignored information that would have caused the employer to know that the employee lacked permission to work. The maximum sentence on indictment for this offence has been increased from 2 to 5 years.

Protect yourself

If you’re an employer and you’re unsure of your legal obligations, get in touch with our immigration law specialists who can advise on how to protect your business from Civil Penalties. We can also advise on challenging any Civil Penalty imposed by the Home Office. Contact June Holmes in the Immigration department for more information.