Monthly Archives: June 2013

UK Border Agency – What Has Changed?

The UK Border Agency was set up in 2008 to sort out immigration as the system was deemed not to be fit for purpose.

However, the government recently announced it was to be scrapped due to a number of embarrassing faux pas.  In 2011 it was discovered that some checks on European travellers had been relaxed.  I witnessed this myself at the port of Dover on many occasions where up to 20 UK Border Agency officials stood around chatting watching the many cars and vans pouring off the ferries and out of the port without making any attempt to stop anyone.

Whilst Theresa May the Home Secretary said that whilst the relaxing of some checks had been done with her knowledge,  Brodie Clark, who was in charge, had gone further in scaling back checks without her approval.  He resigned.

Ms May said that due to the volume of numbers coming to the UK the system is struggling and on 1 April it was brought back under Home Office authority. It was then split into two parts.  One part is an immigration and visa service with a “culture of customer satisfaction” for business and visitors with money to spend and the other is an immigration  law enforcement organisation with a “get tough” agenda.

However there are no major plans to overhaul the system other than that which has recently taken place which include some tidying up of immigration rules and an overhaul of the Codes of Practice.

The government is intent on bringing down net migration and placing restrictions on member EU countries where it can.  For example Romania and Bulgaria can only, later this year, migrate to the UK after an initial restriction on doing so was agreed in Brussels when these countries joined the EU.

Employers need to ensure that their employees have the right to work in the UK checking their ID documents – passports, visas, etc and keeping photocopies on file that are annually assessed, particularly those employees with time limited immigration permission.  A list of prescribed documents is available on the Home Office website.  Key personnel such as authorising officer, key contact, level 1 & 2 users) should be conversant with their duties and responsibilities.  They should know what changes in migrant or sponsor circumstances to report, and when and how to do it.  The Code of Practice for avoiding discrimination when dealing checking documents should be referred to and legal advice taken in cases of difficulty.

Employers should stay on top of Home Office guidance which is changing all the time.  For example, employers need to refer to the most recent tier 2 and 5 guidance and codes of practice when issuing Certificates of Sponsorship as some thresholds and criteria, e.g. minimum salary levels in some jobs, have changed recently.  Also employers should ensure that migrant employees are using the right forms and most efficient processes when applying for new and extended permission.

The Legalities of Lay Offs

When times are tough many employers often have to consider laying off staff.  In the construction industry there is a history of doing so.  However due care and attention needs to be paid to the process in order to avoid costly employment tribunal compensation for getting it wrong.

In order to lay staff off there needs to be an express contractual right to do so.  Employers can not just lay staff off because work has diminished.  The contractual clause should state whether the right to lay offs allows the employer to do so with a reduced salary or no salary at all. Without such a clause employees can make a claim of breach of contract, constructive dismissal and/or unlawful deduction of wages. It might be possible for an employer to claim an implied right if such a practice has continued for a long time and therefore become custom and practice.

With a temporary lay off a contract can be varied with the mutual agreement of both parties.  This should be confirmed in writing.  However such an agreement does not allow the employer to unilaterally lay the employee off in future.

They may be entitled to a guarantee payment of up to five days in three months; this is currently £24.20 per day.  On days when there is no payment Jobseekers Allowance or Income Support can be claimed. Employees who are laid off for four continuous weeks or more or for six weeks in any thirteen week period can take redundancy.


National Volunteer Week – Why Volunteer?

This week is National Volunteering Week and I was invited to discuss the benefits of volunteering on BBC Radio Northampton.

I have always been a big believer in volunteering for the advantages it can have to help career progression.  When I am working with individuals to develop their CV I always recommend that they include any volunteering they have done and tease out the skills that they have used in the process.  New skills can be gained that someone can then go on to use in paid employment.  These can include planning, goal setting, budgeting, supervising and prioritising.  Existing skills can also be used and developed further. 

Volunteering can be fun particularly if you are doing something you enjoy.  Many employers now prefer to take on employees who have done some volunteering over and above those who have not and many employers believe that volunteering adds to skills.  Having volunteering on their CV provides a complete picture of an individual showing examples of commitment, dedication and passion and that they have other interests outside of work.

The advantages of volunteering include gaining new experiences, meeting diverse people, being part of the community, developing social skills, improving motivation, developing a sense of achievement.    

For individuals who have been out of work for a long time it can help to develop self confidence and combat depression.

For anyone who is looking to change career, volunteering can help by gaining experience in a new sector.