Britain’s biggest private employer, Tesco, has been slapped with a £115,000 fine by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) for illegally employing foreign students – that they later hung out to dry – who were in breach of their student visa conditions, The Daily Telegraph, has revealed.
Following a raid in July, UKBA had discovered the international Tier 4 university students from almost 12 countries, working longer hours than their visas allowed at a warehouse.
The visa breaches were discovered after immigration officials swooped on the Tesco.com building in Croydon, south London.
UKBA officials arrested more than 30 of the students for alleged breaches of visa terms that restricted the amount of hours they could work.
This week it was announced that Britain’s biggest supermarket chain has been served the civil penalty (immediate fine, no need to prove the matter in a court) for immigration breaches on 23 workers.
Although the fines are a ‘drop in the ocean’ to a company turning over billions of pounds each year, the disclosures will prove embarrassing. Tesco employs nearly 300,000 people in more than 2500 stores in Britain alone.
Of the illegal workers, 20 students, who have not been identified, have been removed from the UK.
Students get deported, Tesco PLC gets a slap on the wrist and the managers who employed them have no liability whatsoever.
UK Border Agency officials decided against revoking any licences “because they wanted to work with Tesco to solve the problem”, according to sources familiar with the decision.
One source told The Daily Telegraph: “They have many licences for different parts of the business so UKBA felt this wouldn’t make a difference.”
The students, predominantly of Bangladeshi and Indian origin, had been openly working up to three-and-a-half times longer than their student visas allowed.
The workers, who were university students aged over 18, all had the right to work in the UK for 20 hours per week.
The Telegraph reports that UKBA Officials had approached Tesco executives shortly before the raids and asked them to keep giving the students illegal overtime “in order to catch them in the act”.
Tesco’s effectively stabbed their own workers, whom they had illegally over-employed, in the back in order to save their own necks. Nice employers.
With “full co-operation” of Tesco officials, the UKBA raided the Factory Lane warehouse at 3am on Saturday, July 21 entrapping their own employees.
Investigations found Tescos had been employing the students between 50 and 70 hours a week during the school term, when their visas only allowed for 20 hours.
Tesco were issued with a “notification of potential liability”.
Authorities were deciding whether to go further and issue the employer with a notification of liability, and a fine of up to £10,000 per illegal worker. But they have got away with the equivalent of £5000 per breach. Well, ‘every little helps’.
Little Chinese and Indian takeaways in the same position usually the full brunt of the UKBA’s powers and are immediately clobbered with £10,000 fines with no chance of cooperating.
In a statement, a UK Border Agency spokesman said today: “This fine shows that we will not hesitate to take action against employers that break the rules.
“Illegal working has a serious impact on our communities and where we have intelligence to suggest it is taking place we will take action, as we have done in this case.
“It is the legal responsibility of all employers to make sure employees have the right to work in the UK and those who don’t face serious fines.”
He added: “We are always willing to work with employers to make sure they carry out the necessary checks and Tesco has co-operated fully with our investigation.”
A spokesman for Tesco said: “We are aware of the UK Border Agency’s decision.
“We do not condone illegal working of any kind and have co-operated fully with the UKBA throughout the investigation, taking additional steps to ensure an incident of this nature does not happen again.” Source: Daily Telegraph.
Last year it was reported that Tesco was recruiting EU workers from Slovakia, while exploiting young British workers on below minimum wage Government apprenticeship schemes.
Employers should be aware that not all EU workers have the same free movement rights to work in the UK.
Even though they are EU members, when it comes to employment Bulgarian and Romanian citizens do not have the same rights as other Europeans, for instance from France, Germany, Poland, Slovakia or other A8 Accession countries.
When Bulgaria and Romania joined the European Union in 2007 the UK government, like many other European governments, imposed limits on working the newest members of the EU. See: Free Movement of EU nationals explained.
If you need any immigration advice or are worried about the new immigration rules or need help with Sponsorship or Tier 2, Tier 4, applying for university if your college has closed down, Visa, ILR, Settlement, Citizenship, Dependant Visa or an appeal against a UK Border Agency or British Embassy refusal, or if you have been waiting for a reply from the Home Office for longer than a year, please email: