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THE BUSINESS community is being caught unawares by unworkable immigration reforms which will place a heavy burden on companies, says a leading immigration lawyer.
Cameron Markby Hewitt partner Julia Onslow-Cole, who heads the firm's immigration group, said her business clients are increasingly concerned about the Asylum and Immigration Bill, currently at committee stage in Parliament.
And she predicted a steady increase in enquiries from clients as they realise the implications of the new Bill, which proposes to make it a criminal offence to employ a person with no immigration entitlement to work in the UK.
The measure hit the headlines in November last year when Institute of Directors director general Tim Melville-Ross said the move to force employers to weed out illegal immigrants had "racial implications".
But Onslow-Cole, who sits on the Law Society's immigration sub-committee, said business leaders had failed to pursue their concerns after assurances that checking National Insurance numbers would be a defence to criminal charges.
"It is short sighted for the CBI and other employers' representatives to give way so soon on this issue. The Bill makes the offence a continuing one, so employers will have to monitor employees' immigration positions on a continuous basis."