On 12 May 2016, the Immigration Act 2016 (the Act) came into force in the UK. The Act is intended to introduce tougher measures to curb illegal working and prevent the exploitation of migrant workers.
The Act builds upon legislation introduced in 2014 which strengthened punishments for employers who employ illegal workers. This included doubling the maximum civil penalty from £10,000 to £20,000 per illegal worker employed.
In the financial year 2014/2015, Immigration Enforcement issued 1,974 civil penalties to businesses employing illegal workers.
Three of the Act’s key provisions will come into force on 12 July 2016. These are as follows:
1. Illegal working will be made a criminal offence in its own right so that the individual employee will be subject to potential criminal prosecution for illegal working i.e. working at a time when they know they do not have permission to work in the UK and/or they have reasonable cause to believe that they are disqualified from doing so because of their immigration status.
An individual convicted of this offence will be subject to imprisonment of 51 weeks or a fine (unlimited) or both and may also be subject to a confiscation order of wages as the proceeds of crime.
2. The existing criminal offence of ‘knowingly employing’ an illegal worker will be extended so that if an employer has ‘reasonable cause’ to believe that an employee is disqualified from working because of their immigration status and employs them, the employer will be committing a criminal offence.
The maximum term of imprisonment for conviction of this offence will increase from 2 years to 5 years.
3. In addition due to the increase in organised criminal activity engaging in labour market exploitation, primarily targeting migrant workers, the Government will create a new Director of Labour Market Enforcement to seek to oversee compliance in the labour market.
The above provisions will make it increasingly difficult for employers to turn ‘a blind eye’ to their responsibilities to prevent illegal working.
Will you be affected by the changes? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.