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The Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation

Byron Hamburgers; What It Means for Other Businesses


Date: 09-Aug-2016

What should businesses make of stricter illegal working penalties and increasing Home Office audits?

On 28 July a training meeting for Byron Hamburger staff was raided by the Home Office. This led to 35 employees being taken away for not having permission to legally work in the UK. The hospitality industry has long been acknowledged as susceptible to illegal working, partly because of the high staff turnover as well as the low skill level and pay for many roles. 

1. What happened? - The raid was believed to be orchestrated with the agreement of Byron's management. It is assumed this was so the company could avoid a civil penalty, which (in light of the number of workers involved) may have been in the region of £700,000. Following the introduction of the Immigration Act 2016 and the lower threshold applied to illegal working ('having reasonable cause to believe' rather than 'knowing' that someone did not have the right to work lawfully in the UK) the management's action may also have avoided criminal charges.

2. Was this a sensible decision? - While a company may have little option but to co-operate with the Home Office, businesses should not underestimate the negative ramifications of assisting with a raid. In Byron's case, shortly after the event #BoycottByron began trending on social media. This campaign was a response by some customers who were concerned that the company arranged a training session purposely to 'catch out' workers – not all of whom were working in the UK illegally.

3. Looking to the future - The Home Office's decision to raid Byron Hamburgers can only increase concern for businesses who are already considering how to manage their staffing needs post-Brexit. It will be of particular interest to employers in industries at higher risk of illegal working such as hotels, construction companies and care homes. Such industries' work forces traditionally comprise of a large proportion of EU nationals who are unlikely to meet the future skills test set by the Home Office under immigration rules.

This high-profile audit is unlikely to be a one-off. It shows that while the right to free movement for EU nationals remains a key political issue the Home Office is likely to increasingly rely on the civil penalty regime to target companies employing people illegally.

In these uncertain times it's important for organisations to take their employees' right to work seriously and to review, audit and where necessary update their staff training practices. 

Organisations needing practical help with this, are welcome to call: Jerry Hayter, at Xecutive Search, on 07747-868111, for a no obligation discussion. 

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