Illegal Working - What do You Need to Know?
For some time employers have been required to ensure that their employees have the right to work in the UK, for example by checking relevant documentation such as passports and residence permits etc. As a result it has been a criminal offence for some time to knowingly employ an illegal worker.
The Immigration Act 2016 extends this so that an employer can also be liable for a criminal offence where they have ‘reasonable cause to believe’ that the individual is not entitled to work for them. New penalties have also been introduced which increases the length of imprisonment from two to five years and/or a fine. This is in addition to previous rules which can result in a fine to a company of up to £20,000 per illegal worker.
The Act also allows a business to be searched for documents and for the Home Office to impose compliance sanctions or ultimately close businesses for up to 48 hours in certain circumstances where they are satisfied that the employer has engaged an illegal worker. It is clear that this has the potential to cause operational and reputational damage to a business.
There are also new powers for an ‘immigration skills charge’ to be applied to employers who sponsor skilled workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA). Subject to certain exemptions the charge will be £1,000 for each skilled migrant worker they employ and will come into force from April 2017.
The new powers and offences suggest that the government intends to increase their efforts to preventing illegal working. Employers should therefore ensure that they are aware of their obligations and have stringent procedures in place to ensure that they are compliant in conducting right to work checks, whilst also bearing in mind the risk of race discrimination claims arising from dealing with these matters incorrectly.
For more information and to find out how we can help you, please contact a member of our Employment Team on 01279 755777.