A recent survey by the Home Builders Federation has revealed that one in five people working on house-building sites is a foreign national and 12.6% of the construction workforce in the UK is foreign born. Yet despite this, nobody in the industry appears to want to grasp the thorny issue of Right to Work.
Despite the threat of significant fines (up to £20,000 per person) and prison sentences, the construction industry still has a poor image when it comes to illegal workers. Liability for illegal workers lies with their employers and failure to comply is a criminal offence. But if the consequences are so substantial, why are so many employers happy to take their chances and employ illegal workers?
The Home Office believes that Tier 1 contractors in charge of overall project governance should be addressing this issue in order to reduce risks on site and improve the overall image of the industry. However legally the main contractor does not have responsibility for carrying out these checks only to ensure a system is in place for their sub-contractors to carry out the checks.
So the issue is one of ownership but Right to Work is currently a proverbial hot potato that nobody wants to take responsibility for and as long as this is the case the industry will continue to be marred by fines, arrests and bad reputation.
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