Employers Turn A ‘Blind Eye’ To Illegal Workers

Employers turn a blind eye to illegal workers
13 July 2006
Workplace Law Magazine
News item

It has been claimed that employers and the Government may be turning a blind eye to the immigration status of some of their employees because of the high level of flexibility illegal workers offer them.

Academics at Oxford University criticised the Government by saying that it may be unintentionally overlooking migrants working illegally in the UK because they provide a pool of cheap labour.

They highlighted a tension between employers' needs for low cost labour and the Government's need for immigration control.

The ability to have such a flexible workforce can act as an incentive to employers to “turn a blind eye” to their employees immigration status. This means there is little discussion about migrants who are living in the UK legally but breaking the employment restrictions on their immigration papers. This failure to distinguish between illegal residence and illegal working was highlighted as a particular problem.

Martin Ruhs from the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society, at Oxford University commented:

“Our research has shown that migrants – and their employers – often see themselves as bending rather than breaking immigration rules.

“Migrants can provide employers with a highly desirable flexible labour force.

“They are easy to hire and fire, and eager to work long hours, so employers are sometimes willing to turn a blind eye if they break the employment restrictions attached to certain types of immigration status.”

A Home Office spokeswoman said immigration laws passed this year would create a new civil penalty against employers who hired illegal migrants. There will also be a new criminal offence against employers who “knowingly” employ illegal migrants.

For UK employers the Governments proposed new points-based immigration system is designed to simplify the process for those employing workers from other countries. Like similar schemes in the US and Australia, workers will be awarded points for factors including their age, qualifications, previous earnings and whether they have a job offer.