The prevention of illegal working regime in the UK encompasses a number of pieces of legislation, Codes of Practice and guidance notes all of which are designed to prohibit and punish those employers who employ workers illegally in the UK.
The UK Government in the last 10 years has become increasingly tough on employers who ignore their responsibilities to ensure all those in their employment have the legal right to work.
The Home Office has this month published its quarterly report on fines issued to employers who have employed illegal workers. The report is open to the public to view on the Home Office website and it names the employers which have been issued with a civil penalty, gives their addresses and states the amount of the penalty.
The report shows that in the period January to March 2016, the Home Office imposed fines of over £14million to employers across the UK. The statistics behind the fines are that 195 workers were found to be illegally working in 838 workplace investigations. There was evidence of a clear regional concentration of breaches with over half of the fines being issued to employers in London and the South East where the cost of labour is considerably more expensive.
As reported in our previous blogs, the maximum civil penalty for employing illegal workers is £20,000 per illegal worker (the starting point is £15,000 where no illegal workers have been found to have been employed by that employer in the previous 3 years).
In addition to the reputational and financial penalties, the existing criminal offence of ‘knowingly’ employing an illegal worker was widened on 12 July 2016 to make it a criminal offence where an employer has ‘reasonable cause to believe’ an individual is an illegal worker but still employs them. As such, a prosecution is now easier to achieve. The maximum term of imprisonment for employing an illegal worker where an employer has reasonable cause to believe the employee does not have the right to work in the UK has increased from 2 to 5 years imprisonment.
It is expected that following the changes introduced on 12 July 2016 the number of criminal prosecutions will increase. As such, there is now even further deterrent to avoid turning a blind eye on your legal obligations to prevent illegal working.