Currently, it is a criminal offence to knowingly employ an individual who does not have permission to work in the UK. Fines of up to £20,000 per worker also apply to those employers who are found to illegally employ migrants without having checked that they have properly documented permissions.
Over recent years, the government has sought to strengthen the law in this area, and the new Immigration Bill 2015/16 (presented to Parliament for its first reading on 17 September 2015) proposes to create a further criminal offence of “having reasonable cause to believe” that an individual is illegally employed.
Further, the maximum sentence for criminal employers will increase from two to five years, in addition to the fines already in force. There is also the possibility of certain businesses, such as off-licenses and restaurants losing their licence to operate if they are found to employ illegal workers.
Pam Sidhu, Head of Employment, comments: “The government is increasing its enforcement activities in relation to rogue employers found to employ illegal workers. Whilst the majority of employers in the UK have no intention of breaching immigration laws, there is a degree of ignorance amongst employers about the importance of ensuring proper document checks are carried out for all staff (including British nationals), so that they have the appropriate documentation on file to show a statutory defence (or excuse) to the offence of illegally employing. It is important to note that the Home Office is not obliged to prove that an employer has committed an offence, but is for the employer to show that they have the statutory excuse, ie that they have carried out the appropriate checks”.
We advise on the right to work checks employers must carry out, including drafting policies for employers in this area and assisting employers defend investigations by the Home Office for suspected illegal activity.
If you would like to discuss any issue or query arising from this update please contact Pam Sidhu or your usual contact in the Employment team. Alternatively email us at firstname.lastname@example.org