It is essential to maintain throrough and correct paperwork records.
What rules and regs do I need to follow?
You must ensure workers are legally entitled to work in the UK. But establishing legality is complicated by the baffling range of options and sources for recruiting migrant labour.
Paperwork requirements vary according to the worker’s country of origin, but ignorance is no defence if someone is working for you illegally.
Section 8 of the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996 requires all employers in the UK to check on anyone they intend to employ. Carrying out these checks will help provide you with a defence if it is later discovered that a worker is illegal.
So what sort of checks are these?
Most rely on a suitable passport or national identity card being presented and checked, sometimes containing endorsements regarding rights to remain in the UK. Equally, some asylum seekers need a Home Office application registration card stating that they may work in the UK.
Certain other combinations of documents are also acceptable in establishing a person’s right to be and work in the UK (see Home Office).
All of these documents must be original and you should check that:
- Photographs and dates of birth correspond with the apparent age of the worker.
- Expiry dates have not been exceeded.
- The same name is used on all documents.
- Any stamps and endorsements allow the type of work offered to be carried out.
- Photocopies or scanned copies should be made and then stored safely.
What’s the position with workers from the EU member states?
EU citizens from the original 15 member states (before the 2004 expansion) have free movement and access to jobs within the EU. No permission to work is needed, but you should still make basic checks such as those above to ensure that people are who they say they are.
And those from the EU accession states?
People from most of the 10 countries (Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia, but not Cyprus and Malta), which joined the EU in 2004 need to register with the Workers Registration Scheme and must apply to the Home office to do this as soon as they begin employment.
They must do this within one month of starting work and need the employer to provide written evidence of employment, such as a letter or contract. So you need to keep a copy of this application and the Home Office notification that registration has been completed.
Some people are exempt from these requirements (see guidance www.employingmigrantworkers. org.uk). After 12 months legal working in the UK without a break, WRS candidates can apply for a residence permit and no longer need to register with the scheme.
How does SAWS fit in with all this?
SAWS (Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme) exists to provide temporary employment (minimum five weeks, maximum six months) for foreign students from non-EU countries. Their numbers are limited by annual quota (16,250 this year, cut from 25,000 last year).
It is run by a small number of operators, including two charities, HOPS and Concordia. In this scheme, workers begin paying tax only when the tax threshold is reached and then only at a reduced rate. They are exempt from paying NI if they are studying an agriculturally-related subject in their home country, but need a visa.
Who needs work permits?
Work permits can be obtained by third-country nationals who want to work in the UK, but who do not meet SAWS requirements. Several types of permits are offered under different schemes, some of them skill- or sector-specific, but work permits are generally little used in agriculture (see www.workingintheuk.gov.uk).