Illegal employment: who vets your staff?

This week 20 Tesco workers were arrested for breaching the conditions of their visas at one of the company’s dot com buildings in Croydon. Now facing fines of up to £10,000 per worker and further investigations, the case highlights an important issue that many companies face.

Whose responsibility is it to vet workers? Does it lie with the agency, the payroll provider, or the end client that they’ll be performing the work for?

I often speak with clients to find out whether they know their workers; whether they are directly employed or placed through agencies as temporary cover. Sometimes the situation could be so complex that the agency that placed them used an intermediary to find the worker, then a provider for payroll and the vetting of staff as the end client or ultimate hirer.

Then there’s the issue of whether the company’s annual audit requirements ensure that workers are fit and able and paying the right taxes. I’m sure the audit companies will have something to say about that.

Often the contractual obligation sits with a company that has no direct interest in undertaking the actual vetting. Who checks the vetters?

In this case, Tesco workers were found to be doing 50-70 hour weeks on student visas that only permitted them to work 20 during the school term. It’s unclear whether Tesco employed the staff directly, or if the company had any knowledge of the visa’s stipulations, but the UK Border Agency has stated that Tesco needs to provide evidence that the legally required checks were being carried out to avoid a fine, which would currently amount to £200,000.


  1. David (Cropper)
    Sep 6, 2012

    Having worked with Colin as an Independent Business Consultant for some 20 years, I am unsurprised at his insight into this complex area of his Company’s interests in the Umbrella Business. Clearly, the dangers inherent in the present lack of clarity in the legislation and business understanding are exposed through the difficulties being experienced by Tesco, a Global Operator. Colin’s ‘Thoughts’ are a useful spur to corrective action.

  2. Carl
    Aug 31, 2012

    This is a fascinating conundrum…the buck has to stop ultimately with the employers, many of whom have been found to hide behind third parties to avoid the law and get some cheap labour. Professional agencies and payroll providers will often provide a vetting service, but it will have a cost attached and the employers can be keen to negotiate it away!

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