Employment and Immigration Law Update - Reviews of Home Office practice

23 May 2019

Alleged fraud in English language tests and prevention of illegal working.

Alleged fraud in English language tests

The National Audit Office is carrying out a review of how the Home Office handled allegations of fraud in English tests administered by ETS. Incidents of fraud were originally uncovered in 2014 by the BBC Panorama programme. The Home Office launched a probe and it is estimated that 35,000-36,000 student visas were cancelled as a result. However, many students have complained they were wrongly accused. 

Whilst clearly fraud needed to be stamped out, it has been suggested that, as in the case of Windrush migrants, the Home Office may have gone too far and innocent people may have been affected. We will provide further updates once the report is published.

Prevention of illegal working

The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration has carried out a review of the efficiency and effectiveness of the Home Office’s approach to preventing illegal working. 

The report found significant efforts from Immigration Enforcement to develop strategies and to encourage partnerships and collaborations with other government departments and with large employers and employer groups in particular sectors. But there were no metrics in place to measure success and it seemed little had changed in practice on the ground. 

The report is critical of the fact that: “teams were still largely reliant on allegations received from members of the public as the main source of operational leads, and almost half of all illegal working deployments were to restaurants and fast food outlets, and concentrated on a few nationalities, essentially those believed to be removable. Bangladeshis, Indians, Pakistanis and Chinese made up almost two-thirds (63%) of all illegal working arrests.”

Recommendations include “developing effective intelligence collection and assessment capabilities at local/regional level, and aim to widen the deterrent effect of the risk of an ICE visit by deploying more frequently to other employment sectors.” 

Inevitably the Windrush scandal “has created both an opportunity and an imperative” for review of the approach to illegal working and other “compliant environment” measures. There is a need to consider not only effectiveness, but also whether it is appropriate. However, the report found that as at the end of 2018 there was little evidence that the Home Office’s approach had been reconsidered. It has been agreed that an updated action plan and strategy should be drawn up.

The Home Office has said it is already looking to broaden its enforcement efforts into other sectors. All employers need to be prepared for a potential inspection by the Immigration Enforcement team, which may be announced or unannounced. If you would like to arrange a mock audit, or a Right to Work Checks Masterclass for your HR team and/or managers, please contact Clare Hedges, Head of Immigration. 

This article is from the May 2019 issue of Employment and Immigration Law Update, our monthly newsletter for HR professionals. To download the latest issue, please visit the newsletter section of our website. Law covered as at May 2019.

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