The UK's biggest supermarket Tesco has been fined £115,000 for breaches of the rules concerning the employment of foreign nationals.
On 21st July 2012, UK Border Agency staff went to Tesco's internet grocery distribution centre in Farm Lane, Croydon, south London, and arrested over 30 people, mainly of Bangladeshi and Indian origin.
The people arrested were entitled to be in the UK. They had Tier 4 student visas. In many cases Tier 4 student visas entitle their holders to work for up to 20 hours per week alongside their study during term time. Those students who are allowed to work part-time during term time are also allowed to work full time during their holidays. The UKBA says that some students had been working for three and a half times longer than allowed under the Tier 4 student visa scheme.
The raid occurred after a lengthy investigation by UKBA staff. The UKBA approached Tesco management shortly before the raid and asked the supermarket not to cut the amount of overtime that the students were working; This ensured that the raid would 'catch them in the act'.
Tesco cooperated fully with the UKBA. Since the raid, 20 of those arrested have been deported. The UKBA failed to find enough evidence against ten of the workers. It was immediately served with a 'notification of potential liability' and warned that it might be fined after the UKBA investigation was completed.
Tesco could have been fined up to £10,000 for each worker found to have been working illegally. The fine of £115,000 represents a penalty of £5,000 per worker.
An industry expert told the Daily Telegraph that this was because the UKBA prefers to take a collaborative approach and work with businesses to try and address illegal work practices.
A Tesco spokesman said 'We do not condone illegal working of any kind and have cooperated fully with the UKBA.'
Sanwar Ali, of workpermit.com said 'The UKBA has increased the scale of its investigations into illegal working. Over 2,000 illegal workers have been expelled this year alone. You must be aware that, if you work illegally, you risk deportation.'
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