Legal series

It has recently been reported that 35 employees of the Byron Burger Restaurant chain across London were arrested for suspected immigration offences. The raids on 4 July were carried out with the full co-operation of Byron Burger Restaurants.

The Home Office has confirmed that Byron Burger Restaurants had carried out the correct ‘right to work’ checks on its employees, but it was suspected that the employees from Albania, Brazil, Nepal and Egypt had provided false documents.

So, what are the ‘Right to Work’ checks?

All employers in the UK have a legal obligation to ensure that those who they wish to employ have the right to work in the UK and to do the job in question.

Employers must, therefore, before an individual begins employment do the following:

  1. Request original documents, such as a passport or biometric residence permit evidencing an individual’s right to work in the UK;
  2. Check the documents in the presence of the employee – be vigilant – have expiry dates passed? Does the Photo ID match the person presenting it?; and
  3. Take a clear copy of the documents, keep them secure and record the date on which they were checked.

By carrying out the above steps an employer will be entitled to rely upon a “statutory excuse”, if subsequently, as in the case of Byron Burger Restaurants, an individual is found to be illegal. Currently, an employer may be liable to a fine of up to £20,000 per illegal employee. As ‘right to work’ checks were carried out by Byron Burger Restaurants they were able to avoid a hefty bill of £700,000!

The Home Office has confirmed that 25 of the 35 employees employed by Byron Burger Restaurants have already left the UK and the remaining 10 cases are being progressed.

The raids that took place in early July demonstrate the continuing commitment of the Home Office to prevent illegal working in the UK.  Also as we reported in our blog of 23 June, the Immigration Act 2016 came into force on 12 July 2016 and has further strengthened the current regime to prevent illegal working.

It is becoming increasingly important that employers take “right to work” checks seriously to avoid the reputational and financial risks of failing to do so.

This post was edited by Rizwana Ishaq and Mary Olawuyi. For further information, email

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This blog is intended only as a synopsis of certain recent developments. If any matter referred to in this blog is sought to be relied upon, further advice should be obtained.