The Home Office is looking to swell the coffers by targeting migrants and employers alike. As discussed previously, visa fees and the immigration health surcharge are increasing by a significant amount.

In addition, the Government has now announced increases to the penalty notice for employing illegal workers in the UK – up from £15,000 per person to a whopping £45,000 per person, or £60,000 for repeat offenders.  Receiving one of these fines could easily set a small business into financial difficulty and leave them with a damaged reputation.  Below we will explore these changes and help you to avoid hot water.

Why an employer would receive this type of penalty notice

Any UK employer has a legal requirement to conduct a right to work check before an employee begins working for their business or company.  If the appropriate right to work check is not done (or not done correctly), and the employee does not have the right to legally work in the UK, then the employer may be committing an offence of employing an illegal worker.

We will touch further on Right to Work checks a little later but for now let’s look at when a civil penalty notice would be issued.  Should the company or business be inspected by immigration enforcement and a member of staff is discovered to be working illegally, then the employer will currently receive a civil penalty charge of £15,000 per person (or from 2024 £45,000) – unless the employer has carried out a proper right to work check, as explained below.

There are two typical scenarios in which an employer will be seen to be employing illegal workers which are:

  • Knowingly employing illegal workers (or having ‘reasonable cause to believe’ you were employing an illegal worker)
  • Unknowingly employing illegal workers

Should an employer knowingly employ an illegal worker then the employer will not only receive a civil penalty notice, but they may also be committing a criminal offence under Section 21 of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006.

Should an employer unknowingly employ illegal workers, then they may still be liable for a civil penalty unless they carried out a proper right to work check. If they conducted the correct Right to Work check but were unaware for example of fraudulent documentation, then they will have a statutory excuse against the payment of a civil penalty notice.

The increase in civil penalty notice for illegal workers as of 2024

The Home Office is increasing the civil penalty notice fine from £15,000 per person to £45,000 per person – and it’s £60,000 per person for repeat offenders: financially ruinous amounts for any unwitting small business.

These increases will come into play from the start of 2024.

The new and improved right to work check system

In light of this, it is extremely important that all employers are conducting correct Right to Work checks for all of their employees.

British nationals need to only provide a copy of their passport to satisfy a right to work check.  However, any non UK national employees must generally provide either a share code to their employer or the employer must use the Employer Checking Service.

We can help!

Our trained immigration lawyers are able to assist you with any issues with civil penalty issues and advise on how to conduct Right to Work check correctly. Contact us today.

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Catherine Reynolds
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