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Government kicks-off campaign to tackle illegal workers

Published 4th January, 2016 by Neil Nixon

Government kicks-off campaign to tackle illegal workers

The Home Office has kicked-off its campaign to drive compliance and root out illegal working in the cleaning industry, Immigration Minister James Brokenshire has announced. During the week-long campaign, which took place during early December, immigration enforcement officers carried out operations targeting agencies and service providers in the sector who employ and exploit illegal migrant workers.

The previous week, the Home Office hosted a meeting with leaders from the cleaning industry to discuss plans to end illegal working in the sector.

James Brokenshire said: “Illegal working undermines legitimate employers, harms the reputation of the industry, drives down wages, and denies employment to hard-working UK citizens and people who are working in the UK legally. Bringing together key employers and influencers in the cleaning industry has shown us the very clear determination of those working in the sector to maintain its integrity. It has also given us an opportunity to underline the vital role employers have to play, by ensuring they carry out the straightforward 'Right to Work' checks on potential employees which will prevent illegal working in the UK.”

The roundtable event was an opportunity for those in the cleaning industry to share their experiences of illegal working in the sector, find out more about measures being introduced by the Government to tackle the problem, and discuss what more can be done. Those attending included representatives from cleaning companies and industry bodies including MITIE, the British Cleaning Council, and the Cleaning and Support Services Association.

British Cleaning Council chairman, Simon Hollingbery, said: “We fully support this campaign, and have been working with the Home Office Immigration Enforcement team for a number of months. Rogue cleaning contractors have no place in the cleaning industry. They take on illegal migrants purposely to undercut genuine, law abiding firms. By doing so they break all health and safety rules, and work the illegal migrants for long hours on pitifully low pay. The vast majority of cleaning contractors will welcome this latest move and we have invited members of the immigration team to speak at the Manchester Cleaning Show in April.”

Cleaning staff have access to the premises of many different types of organisations, so carrying out 'Right to Work' checks is integral to maintaining the highest levels of security. If an employee has used forged documents to gain employment, their identity, any criminal history and qualifications cannot be verified. The nature of cleaning work means that the industry can be particularly exposed to the risk of illegal employment, due in part to its reliance on transient labour. Evidence based on operational intelligence has shown this has led to the employment of workers with no right to be in the UK.

Failure to comply with the rules has serious financial repercussions for employers - in the last Parliament the Government doubled the maximum civil penalty for non-compliant employers to £20,000 for each illegal worker employed. In addition, new measures in the Immigration Bill will make it easier to prosecute employers using illegal labour and to close down the businesses where they repeatedly flout the law.

Employers with questions about checking a job applicant's right to work in the UK can call a dedicated support line for advice on 0300 123 4699. They can also use the Employers' Checking Service for checks on migrants with outstanding immigration applications and appeals at

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