Once Upon a Time

Stefan Sosnowski, director uComply on the changing face of compliance.

Once Upon a Time

UK & Europe

Once upon a time…. the wheel was invented, then came the carriage pulled by horses and finally we have a horseless carriage. All this is now taken for granted but imagine those who initially resisted this type of technological advance.

 In the early 1900’s there was a debate as to whether the car was inherently evil. The state of Georgia's Court of Appeals wrote: "Automobiles are to be classed with ferocious animals and … the law relating to the duty of owners of such animals is to be applied ... However, they are not to be classed with bad dogs, vicious bulls, evil disposed mules, and the like."

The safety in early cars is not quite what it is today and the regulations around driving were very different then. In fact, Detroit was the first to introduce a stop sign! Considering where we are now with the car, it’s acceptance, adoption and use within our world it sounds ludicrous to stand against it. Perhaps with the car example, some of you may not agree, but technological advances in general I believe can benefit us all.

What has this to do with compliance? Well change does happen, and provided it is managed correctly it’s not always bad. 

Once upon a time…. all you needed to employ someone was the word of a colleague and possibly a reference. This changed in late 1996 as it became a criminal offence to employ anyone unless they had the permission to live and work in the UK.

Every year since then more and more onus has been placed upon the employer to ensure appropriate controls exist in their organisations to prevent illegal working. The assumption here is that if you are an employer then you are expected to know and apply the rules. In fact, the Home office do issue a “simple” 30+ page guidance document for employers to help them with compliance.

 The question is, as a business should illegal workers be considered a risk? 

Migration watch UK suggests “Accurate numbers are not possible but there could be as many as one million illegal immigrants in the UK.” 

According the ONS UK labour market report of Aug 2018 we have a working population of around 32.39 million. 

 If we take the estimated number of illegal immigrants, this suggests around three per cent of the working population could be illegal. Most of this risk is in the lower paid sectors – if you place temporary workers into the “blue collar” sectors then you should ensure your checking is robust.

So, here we go again….

Once upon a time…. when checking workers eligibility to work we used to shake a hand, then we progressed into photocopying documents and signing them and now, you could utilise technology. Get it wrong and you could face £20,000 per illegal or even a prison sentence. Not forgetting the reputational damage this may cause your brand. With technology you can now put a process in place which helps you check documents and follow the Home Office guidance.

How many of you are still stuck in the “once upon a time” scenario with the manual copy, sign and date? Perhaps you don’t think you have a risk and you can afford to pay the fine, go to prison or loose the good name of your company?

Perhaps you are just doing the basics as you believe its cost effective? In our scenarios to do Right to Work checks correctly on a workforce of 10,000 staff would take over 420 working days of resources. Introduce technology and you could trim this by as much as 80 per cent.

Perhaps it is time to consider the use of technology and see how this can help with risk mitigation, efficiency, ensuring client confidence and business growth.

Wouldn’t it be nice to say: Once upon a time... and they worked.



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