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Construction is in the Government firing line as it seeks to crackdown on illegal immigration. Home Office Minister James Brokenshire told The Times that the Government will be targeting construction, along with care homes and the cleaning industry, as part of its strategy to tackle “rogue employers” and deter illegal immigration.  Enforcement teams are to conduct hundreds of raids aimed at creating a “hostile environment” for illegal immigration.

The Minister argued that firms that cut costs by employing illegal labour are also likely to “breach health and safety rules and pay insufficient tax”.

Employers can face fines of up to £20,000 per person for employing illegal workers, while knowingly employing an illegal worker can lead to a two year jail term.

The perception is that use of illegal labour is likely to be more prevalent on small projects such as home improvement works. Certainly the Federation of Master Builders has long argued that it members face unfair competition for such work from firms operating in the informal economy. Steps such as a reduced VAT rate on home improvements could potentially reduce opportunities for illegal labour as well as ‘levelling the playing field’ for VAT registered firms.

Whilst the use of illegal labour may be most prevalent on these smaller projects, they are also by definition small and hard to target.

Accordingly, expect to see some high profile raids on larger projects this autumn as the Government seeks to publicise the issue to the construction industry and demonstrate its tougher stance to the wider public.

In recent years measures such as the CSCS card scheme have helped improve employees’ qualifications and health & safety training. However, the CSCS scheme does not cover the holder’s right to work in the UK.

The announcement highlights the need for contractors to monitor their supply chain at a time when rising workloads means many are working with sub-contractors for the first time. Glenigan’s project database can help. As a first step subscribers can use the database to identify and research potential new additions to their supply chain, as it provides details of previous projects and the contractors firms have worked with in the past. 

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