Tesco has been fined £115,000 for illegally employing foreign students at its Tesco.com warehouse in Croydon, South London.
The UK Border Agency (UKBA) has now removed 20 of the workers from the country for breaking the terms of their student visas.
Acting on intelligence, the UKBA raided the Tesco warehouse in Factory Lane in July. Officers arrested 23 foreign students – primarily of Bangladeshi and Indian origin – for allegedly working longer hours than their student visas permitted.
The supermarket had faced fines of up to £230,000 – up to £10,000 for each illegal worker.
In a statement issued to FoodManufacture.co.uk a Tesco spokesman said: “We are aware of the UK Border Agency’s decision.
“We do not condone illegal working of any kind and have cooperated fully with the UKBA throughout the investigation.”
‘We will take action’
A spokesman for the UKBA told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “This fine shows that we will not hesitate to take action against employers that break the rules. Illegal working has a serious impact on our communities and, where we have intelligence to suggest that it is taking place, we will take action, as we have done in this case.
“It is the legal responsibility of all employers to make sure their employees have the right to work in the UK and those that don’t face serious fines.”
The students all had the legal right to work in the UK, but only for up to 20 hours a week. The overtime they were clocking up was illegal because it was between 50 and 70 hours a week.
The UKBA said that Tesco had had issues related to monitoring the number of hours worked by the foreign students.
It is now working with Tesco to resolve the problem and ensure that a similar situation does not happen again.
The UKBA spokesman said: “We are always willing to work with employers to make sure they carry out all the necessary checks and Tesco has co-operated fully with our investigation.”
A spokesman for Tesco said: “We are taking additional steps to ensure an incident of this nature does not happen again.”
Meanwhile, Shore Capital analysts Clive Black and Darren Shirley highlighted the key importance of the UK market for the retail giant.
“The prime driver of the Tesco Group share price will be demonstrably fixing the UK, stable market share on stable margins, delivering sound growth elsewhere including a clear path for Fresh & Easy,” they said in a note.
Such progress would allow capital expenditure to be cut, allowing free cash flows to expand, they added.
Shore Capital retained its ‘hold’ recommendation on Tesco stock.