Corner shop 'employed people with no right to work in UK'

Okus Convenience Store <i>(Image: Newsquest)</i>
Okus Convenience Store (Image: Newsquest)

The licence of a convenience store in Swindon will be reviewed next week after allegations it has employed people with no right to work in the UK.

A three-councillor panel will meet after the Home Office requested the review of the Okus Convenience Store in Celsus Grove, South Leaze, near Old Town, saying its officers had found two people who can’t work in the country being employed there.

There is also an allegation made by trading standards officer employed by the council that the shop has been known to sell vaping products to children, against the terms of its licence.

The Home Office submission to the licensing panel says staff from its immigration compliance and enforcement team visited the store in April this year.

It adds: “Officers encountered two individuals working at the premises who were subsequently arrested as immigration offenders following checks.”

The narrative report says one of the two “was observed initially assisting customers with package collection in store but then swapped with his colleague and served customers behind the counter selling alcohol, cigarettes, and other items to customers.

“He was seen by officers operating the till proficiently and when a customer asked him how much an item was with no price on it, he called someone he later said was 'the boss' on the phone who told him the price to sell this for.”

The man eventually admitted working for around 40 hours a week, but the report adds: “He could not show any evidence on his phone about his studies and said he has no laptop or computer to complete coursework. He offered to start studying and said if we let him go, he would start to attend his course.”

The other man interviewed was in the UK on a study visa and despite the Home Office report saying when officers entered was “behind the counter operating the till and serving a queue of customers selling them items and getting cigarettes etc for them from behind the till” he continued to deny working at the shop.

He said he merely went there to pass the time with a friend and occasionally would help when asked.

As well as the allegations of immigration breaches, trading standards officers have told the panel there are a number of different reports of the shop selling vapes and associated products to children, and that a test purchase in March 2022 saw the shop sell an e-cigarette to “a person under the legal age which was also not registered with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.”

It has not been possible to contact the owner of the shop for comment.

The panel meets at 1pm on Friday, September 29 at the council offices.