How right to work fraud can damage your business

How right to work fraud can damage your business

Fraud of all kinds is damaging to business, and poses real threats to the safety and security of workers, clients, and employers.

Right to Work fraud involves the use of fake or forged documents to gain work illegally. According to the Home Office, the dangers around illegal working include leaving people vulnerable to exploitation, which means that unscrupulous employers can undercut and damage the business prospects of compliant businesses and drive wages down for lawful workers. In the most serious cases, illegal working is linked to modern slavery and human trafficking.

On an individual business level, the risks are potentially devastating, not only in terms of the legal ramifications, but in terms of reputation and security, too.

Legal Damage

Right to Work checks are a legal requirement for employers, and the legislative and financial implications of hiring an illegal worker can be significant.

If you employ someone who you know (or have reasonable cause to believe) does not have the right to work in the UK, you can be punished by up to 5 years in prison and landed with an unlimited fine. This includes if you were found to have any reason to believe that a worker did not have permission to enter or remain in the UK, if their leave had expired, or if their papers were incorrect or false.

However, many employers who are hiring people without the right to work in the UK are doing so completely unknowingly, often because they did not carry out the correct checks, or didn’t carry them out to the required standard. In this case, if your Right to Work checks were found to be inadequate, you could be fined up to £20,000 for each illegal worker found under your employ.

In the period between 1st October 2022 and the 31st December 2022, penalties worth £5.8 million were issued across the UK.

Reputational Damage

Not only could your business incur significant financial costs if caught employing an illegal worker, you could also suffer considerable reputational damage.

If the Home Office finds that you have been employing illegal workers, they may include your details in a quarterly report naming businesses that have been issued with penalties, designed to deter other employers from hiring illegally.

Additionally, the press often report of businesses that have been visited by Immigration Enforcement.

Aside from the reputational damage of being penalised by Immigration Enforcement, there are other ways that right to work fraud can damage your reputation. If an illegal worker was hired using a false ID document, your business could have links to organised crime gangs.

Fraudulent ID documents are either authentic passports or driving licences that have been stolen and used by someone posing as the person they belong to, or they are forgeries, often created and sold by individuals with strong links to organised crime.

For the vast majority of customers, suppliers, or business partners, a company with any connection to criminal gangs is hugely unappealing.

Security Damage

If an illegal worker has made it onto your payroll with a fake ID document, it raises serious doubts about the trustworthiness of that individual.

Using a fake or forged ID document suggests that the worker has links with organised crime gangs or other criminal practices, and hiring them puts the security of your business at risk.

For example, if the worker has access to customer information, they can steal that data and sell it to gangs, who can use it commit identity fraud.

Additionally, if a worker has lied about who they are, or their immigration status, it’s important to consider what else they could be being untruthful about. For example, if they have committed right to work fraud, they could also have committed qualification fraud, which, depending on their role, puts the personal safety of clients and colleagues at risk.

How to Avoid Right to Work Fraud?

It’s clear that right to work fraud is potentially very damaging to businesses financially, reputationally, and in terms of security. Therefore it’s important to put in place robust measures to ensure the risk of Right to Work fraud occurring is minimised.

Over the past 12 months, digital Right to Work checks have been used increasingly by businesses to check that new hires have leave to work in the UK. Over this time, more and more fraudulent ID documents have been exposed, as the technology that powers digital Right to Work uses AI and machine learning to spot forged or stolen documentation to a greater degree of accuracy.

However, digital Right to Work options are currently only usable by people in possession of a valid UK passport, which means that 1 in 5 work seekers in the UK are currently unable to participate. Therefore, face-to-face checks still need to be available to work seekers, and this is where fraudsters are most likely to attempt to gain work illegally.

Therefore, while work is being done to make digital ID more inclusive, it’s important to ensure your staff receive training on how to spot fake ID, and that thorough records are kept, so if Immigration Enforcement do make a visit, you can show that you have taken every step possible towards preventing fraud from happening.

Stay protected with Reed Screening

To ensure your business protects its employees, reputation, and business performance when working against dishonest candidates or fraudulent employers, robust screening and secure processes are key.

Pre-employment screening can help you minimise the risk, both in terms of legal liability and in terms of lost productivity and performance from an unsuitable hire. At Reed Screening we specialise in providing fast, accurate screening services that give you the confidence that your employees can be trusted, allowing you to get on with growing your business.

To find out more, get in touch today.