Just recently, the burger chain Byron Burger was thrust into the limelight after it came to light that it was employing a large number of employees without the right to work in the UK. This is contrary to UK employment law. 35 employees have been interviewed and 25 of them deported. The company received criticism for working with the Home Office to set up a fake training day so that Border Agency staff could more easily round up its workers. Byron management have not responded to that particular allegation. They have stated that they were cooperating fully with the Home Office in its investigation.

Burger staff breach employment law; controversy 1
Image courtesy of Stu Spivack, licenced under CC

As a result, Byron Burger have received a lot of online criticism by staff, even those who admitted working illegally. One employee said “They used us and threw us away”. Reprisals have included having live insects released into two of its restaurants.

The questions that arise as a result of this is whether Byron Burger was right to set the trap and what repercussions could it have for right to work.

Were they right or wrong?

The first thing to clear up is that there is no suggestion that Byron Burger breached employment law by employing them knowingly or recklessly. An employer who is duped by false ID documents will face no penalty, if it made the required checks. Nor did it act outside employment law by working with the Home Office. Byron was entitled to co-operate with the government in this way. It was underhand but this is not itself unlawful. By co-operating they may have assisted the brand by showing honesty. Nevertheless, there was no legal reason for Byron burger to have set up the trap. It would have potentially led to less controversy if the company had chosen to cooperate with the Home Office by carrying out further independent checks into the employees flagged up to confirm or dismiss the suspicions.

What could we see going forward?

As a result of this case’s publicity we might begin to see employers adopting more rigorous methods to avoid counterfeit documents making it through the right-to-work screening process. We could also potentially see employers actually complying with their employment law obligations to carrying out checks at the required intervals during the course of employment to ensure that employees still have their legal right to work.

By Ebunoluwa Bamgbade