Employers hit by changes to migrant worker laws

Radical new obligations for employers that hire overseas workers are set to come into effect next year that could have a major impact on small business owners.

Last week, the Government announced a wave of changes to the rules for employing people from non-European Economic Area (EEA) countries, such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa. This includes increased penalties of up to £10,000 per worker and up to two years in prison, should the law not be followed to the letter.

SmallBusiness.co.uk spoke to Kerry Garcia, senior associate in the employment and immigration team at law firm Stevens & Bolton, to get an overview of the changes and asked how small business owners will be affected.

She says: ‘If an employee can only live and work in the UK for a limited time, employers will be obliged to carry out checks every 12 months to ensure that right is still valid. This means more administration for employers and if you don’t have a big HR department to keep on top of this, it could be hard to keep up.’

Effectively this also passes the burden of policing immigration onto small business owners – an unwelcome addition to an already hefty administrative responsibility for SMEs.

Moreover, you will need a licence to employ and sponsor skilled workers from abroad to work here, which could cost several hundred pounds. The licence will last four years, during which time you will have to report absences and significant changes in an employee’s circumstances, such as contact details, to the Home Office – yet more work to add to your busy schedule.

Failing to do so could mean that you lose this licence and the migrant workers that you have sponsored may have to return to their domestic country immediately.

Adam Wayland

Adam Wayland

Adam was Editor of SmallBusiness.co.uk from 2006 to 2008 and prior to that was staff writer on sister publication BusinessXL Magazine.

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