Fury over foreign workers red tape

SMALL companies in Huntingdonshire have long resented acting as tax collectors for the Government. Now they are complaining at being asked to become immigration officers, too. The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has criticised new legislation on emp

SMALL companies in Huntingdonshire have long resented acting as tax collectors for the Government.

Now they are complaining at being asked to become immigration officers, too.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has criticised new legislation on employing foreign workers that will impose unrealistic expectations and draconian fines on employers.

Parts of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act, which came into force on Friday, requires small employers to understand and verify up to 13 forms of identification when employing foreign workers, including recognising the passports of 27 EU member states, Huntingdonshire chairman Malcolm Lyons said.


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Small businesses face fines of £10,000 if they employ people illegally, even if they do so without knowing it.

"It is totally unfair to expect small business owners to act as immigration officers and then threaten them with huge fines if they slip up. It is doubly unfair when the Government then fails to adequately publicise the new rules.

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"Expecting small employers to understand and implement complicated immigration rules is ludicrous. The guidance notes alone for this piece of legislation run to nearly 30 pages."

Employers face civil penalties of up to £10,000 for each illegal worker they employ. Those found to have knowingly hired illegal workers could incur an unlimited fine and be sent to prison.

The FSB says the technical knowledge is beyond the scope of small employers and that the Government should take responsibility for establishing the status of immigrant workers.

The Home Office said every business that employs workers from outside Europe must get a licence.

New fines for employers who hire illegal workers and a tough new points system so that only the best can work in the UK are among the other measures introduced in the biggest shake-up of the immigration system for 45 years, a spokesman added.

"Britain's Australian-style points system kicks off with new rules for highly skilled foreign nationals currently working in the UK who want to extend their stay."

The Government is also introducing a licensing system for employers who want to recruit from overseas and bring skilled workers into the UK.

No company will be granted a sponsor's licence without being approved in advance by the Border and Immigration Agency (BIA).

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said: "Migrants benefit this country economically, contributing an estimated £6billion to our national output, as well as socially and culturally, and it is right that we have a system which is fair but firm, accessible but controlled.

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