Following the Government’s recent consultation employers could face higher penalties for employing illegal workers.
As an employer you have a responsibility to ensure that your employees have the legal right to work in the UK. In 2008 this responsibility became even greater when a civil penalty scheme was introduced. As such, currently if you are found to be employing illegal workers you can be fined up to £10,000 per illegal worker and if you “knowingly” employ an illegal worker you can face criminal prosecution (2 years imprisonment or an unlimited fine).
So what are your duties as an employer?
You are required to carry out document checks on all your employees prior to their start date to make sure they have the right to work in the UK. In addition, if your employees have time limited permission to work in the UK you are required to carry out annual checks to ensure their right to work has not ended. The range of documents which show an employee’s right to work in the UK can be found on the UKBA website: http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/
If you correctly carry out the document checks you will have a legal excuse known as a ‘statutory excuse’ against payment of a fine if an illegal worker is subsequently found to be in your employment by the UKBA.
Some interesting statistics and a point worthy of note:
Since 2008 over 8,100 fines have been issued and more than £24 million in penalties have been paid by employers who have been found to have illegally employed workers. In addition to the fines all employers who have been issued with penalties are named on the UKBA website (details are given of business name, location and the amount of fine).
So what are the future proposals?
There have been signals for some time that the Government has wanted to get tougher against rogue employers who exploit illegal workers and undercut legitimate businesses. In early July, consultation was launched by the Government to “strengthen and simplify” the current system.
In summary the proposals cover:
- Increasing the maximum penalty from £10,000 per illegal worker to £20,000.
- Simplifying the way in which civil penalties are calculated.
- Removing the requirement to carry out annual follow up checks.
- Reducing the range of documents for checking purposes.
The proposals once finalised are expected to come into force in 2014. We will, of course, keep you updated once the proposals are finalised.