Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Lawyer in trouble with the Law

Red faces again in Government circles today as the story of how Baroness Scotland - the highest lawyer in the land - has broken immigration laws she herself voted for by employing an illegal immigrant.

Incredibly the Attorney-General looks to have fallen foul of exactly the kind of 'innocent until proven guilty' laws I was railing on about in my last post.

It is a requirement under section 8 of the Asylum and Immigration Act that employers see proof that migrant workers have rights to work legally in the UK - but not only that, the law says they must copy the documentation and keep a record.

It is not enough for an employer to believe that an employee had the right to work in the UK when they were taken on, to comply with the law you have to be able to prove it. This neatly shifts the burden of proof from the authorities to the employer, unless you can prove you checked you are guilty.

Baroness Scotland assured everyone she had seen proof that the employee, Loluahi Tapui, a resident of Tonga, had the right to be employed here; but has so far ignored a request from the Sunlight Centre for Open Politics to provide the proof the law says she must have kept.

I would imagine that she did see proof but like thousands of very small businesses and individuals was not clear that there was such a strict obligation on her to keep records.

Perhaps she will now appreciate the dangers of passing laws that can make people guilty by default.

She might also like to reflect on the fact that employment law has become an unbelievable minefield for very small businesses - a problem that means many won't take employees on any more.

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