Spotlight on… illegal workers follow-up article

In March 2017, the Scheme’s ‘Spotlight on…’ campaign focused on illegal workers in the construction industry and offered guidance on eliminating this practice.

Developed in partnership with the Home Office, ‘Spotlight on… illegal workers’ provides an essential resource for registered sites, companies and suppliers to understand the issues surrounding illegal working and how to prevent this practice throughout the supply chain.

The campaign followed a survey conducted by the Considerate Constructors Scheme to gauge industry opinions on the issue, which found that 93% of respondents thought illegal working could be better tackled in the construction industry. A third of respondents suspected that illegal working had been present at a previous or current employer, while 61% admitted they have not received – or rarely receive – information on illegal working. These results clearly demonstrate there is a need for greater awareness of the issue to ensure that illegal workers have no place in the construction industry.

‘Spotlight on… illegal workers’ features legal requirements, examples of best practice, access to external resources and practical advice for construction professionals. Case studies were provided by Berkeley Group, Crossrail Limited, FP McCann, Northern Gas Networks and Willmott Dixon to demonstrate how contractors and supply chains can tackle the issue.

To date, the campaign page has received over 3,700 views on the Best Practice Hub and has been featured in prominent publications including: BuildingConstruction Manager, Electrical Times,Housebuilder & Developer,Safety & Health Practitioner and Premises & Facilities Management Online.

What next?

In order to gain an understanding of how the industry has responded since the campaign, Scheme Monitors – who have visited over 5000 sites since March of this year – were asked to complete a survey about how sites are addressing the issue.  Survey results revealed that:

  • 57% reported that sites are more aware of the need to address the issue of illegal workers following the campaign.
  • 72% said they had seen some improvements in how sites are dealing with the issue of illegal workers.
  • 58% said site management are more aware of the correct procedure for checking right to work.
  • There is room for improvement in getting the message across to the workforce, with 55% of Monitors saying they had not seen more literature about illegal working on site. A further 53% said sites were not raising awareness of the issue among the workforce.

These results are encouraging, as they demonstrate that the campaign has been successful in raising awareness of the issue.

It is vital that awareness of right to work is accompanied by action, and these checks must be conducted in accordance with Home Office guidance. A number of Monitors raised concerns that site management still hold the misconception that CSCS cards are adequate proof of right to work; CSCS cards are an indicator of an operative’s skills and are not connected to immigration permission. Employers who mistakenly accept CSCS as right to work are liable for a civil penalty.

Monitor feedback also indicated that larger sites are addressing the issue more effectively than smaller sites, which often employ the same workers on multiple projects. Without exception, every employer must follow UK law by conducting simple document checks before an employee starts work.

Sites, companies and suppliers must take this issue seriously if they are to abide by UK law, avoid fines and potential imprisonment, and secure everyone’s safety. Preventing illegal working is a top priority for the Scheme, with 88% of Monitors stating that it has adversely affected scores where they have seen no evidence of this issue being tackled.

The responsibility for conducting right to work checks falls upon the direct employer. While this is typically a subcontractor, the Scheme expects companies to have a system in place to ensure these checks are conducted. Site managers should be able to explain this process during their Monitor visits.

The industry is certainly making progress in addressing this issue and more sites are now aware of the problem, but there is much more to be done to improve the industry’s approach to tackling illegal working.

Click here to access ‘Spotlight on… illegal workers’ 


If you would like to share how your organisation is tackling the issue of illegal workers, please submit an entry to the Best Practice Hub or contact the Scheme at

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Considerate Constructors Scheme (August 2017)

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