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Stackyard News Jan 07

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    Farmers advised on employing foreign workers

Approximately half the 600,000 temporary workers employed in British agriculture each year are from other EU states and North East farmers employing migrant workers are being urged to ensure they are employing them legally.

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Jonathan Thompson, an associate at law firm, Smithson Clarke which has offices in Alnwick and Newastle specialising in agricultural law matters, highlights the implications for farmers and landowners of employing foreign workers.

He said: “Section 8 of the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996 requires all employers in the UK to check on anyone they intend to employ. The maximum penalty a court can impose on an employer, convicted of a section 8 offence in a magistrates’ or sheriffs’ court is currently £5,000 for each person you are found to have employed illegally.

“If you are convicted at the Crown Court, following trial by jury, the court can impose an unlimited fine.”

Mr Thompson says that for this reason, many businesses have concerns about employing foreign workers. However, provided the right checks are made, employers should have no problems.

The full list of documents to be checked (and copied to be retained by the employer) can be found on the Home Office’s website, under ‘Preventing Illegal Working’.

Mr Thompson added: “You should carry out these checks on all employees, even those you believe to be UK citizens to make sure you are not, inadvertently, employing an illegal worker.

“An employer who has made all the checks and kept a record will not be prosecuted if he or she is found to be employing an illegal immigrant.”

EU citizens from the original 15 member states, Swiss nationals and nationals of countries in the European Economic Area do not need permission to work in the EU and have free access to jobs.

However, 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, must register with the Workers Registration Scheme (WRS) within one month of starting with written evidence of employment.”

“After 12 months working legally in the UK without a break, WRS candidates can apply for a residence permit and no longer need to register with the scheme,” said Mr Thompson.

“If migrant workers were not available some businesses, especially in the North East, where recent figures suggest that one in 40 jobs in the region is vacant, would not be able to function properly.”

He also reminds employers that migrant workers are entitled to the same terms and conditions as British citizens, so employers must ensure, that they have appropriate policies in place and that health and safety rules and procedures are understood by all.

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