Top Yorkshire lawyer welcomes EU workers boost to local economy

New EU states workers

10.01.2007


A leading legal expert has urged Yorkshire businesses to welcome the estimated 11,000 workers set to enter the region from Romania and Bulgaria, after the two countries joined the EU last week.

Matthew Brain, employment law expert at Irwin Mitchell's offices in Queen Street, Leeds, welcomed the move and suggested businesses in Yorkshire should not shy away from employing people arriving from new EU member states.

Bulgarians and Romanians, whose countries both joined the union on January 1, face tight labour restrictions in Britain. Only highly skilled workers with jobs waiting for them, who have secured work permits, those filling identified posts for which no UK applicants are available, the self-employed and up to 20,000 agricultural workers, here for six months, will be allowed to seek employment in the UK.

Migrant workers

Employers wanting to recruit Romanian or Bulgarian nationals are able to do so only through the limited, sector-based schemes or through one of the immigration categories permitting people to work in the UK, such as the work permit or highly skilled migrant schemes.

Mr Brain said: "Many employers may feel wary of the impact new migrant workers could have on Yorkshire. However, unlike the eight countries that joined the EU in 2004, citizens of Romania and Bulgaria will not have unfettered rights to employment in the county.

"Only those in the three categories will be legally able to work. Although there has been a lot of negative press regarding the employment of people from new EU member states, this often goes against the positive experience of employers choosing to take them on.

"Many businesses find employing those from Eastern Europe a rewarding experience and benefit from many new recruits strong work ethos, where nothing is taken for granted and there's a determination to succeed.

"Immigrant workers are also a very important addition to the agricultural sector, as without them, many Yorkshire businesses in the sector could not operate."

Home office migrant worker guidelines

Mr Brain said when employing people from abroad it is vital Yorkshire bosses follow Home Office guidelines closely, as it is illegal to knowingly employ any individual who does not have the right to work in the UK. The law also makes senior management in Yorkshire, such as owners, managers, and senior HR professionals, personally liable for any illegal immigrant found in their employment if they fail to carry out appropriate checks.

He said: "You need to remain informed of any changes to immigration laws in the UK, as they are in constant flux. Your organisation must be aware of all new rules and regulations in order to avoid non-compliance, otherwise senior management can face prison or an on-the-spot fine of £2,000 per person."

Employers should therefore ensure they conduct an immigration audit on all current employees to confirm they are authorised to work in the UK and screen potential candidates by incorporating status checks into recruitment procedures, regardless of their country of origin or appearance.

Mr Brain said other documents to check included passports, birth certificates or other valid immigration documents. He said employers should be sure to demand original documents, and develop an immigration-related employee file, which can easily be submitted to the Home Office if necessary.

Where an agency is used to supply labour, Mr Brain suggested obtaining an agreement that it would carry out pre-employment checks and maintain satisfactory records. This should include a right for the employer to complete random spot-checks to ensure the verification was taking place. He added that, if possible, employers should seek indemnities for any losses they might incur.