Employers face increased penalties for employing illegal workers as a result of changes introduced on 16 May 2014.
Since 2008 the UK Borders Agency has been able to fine employers that unwittingly employ an immigrant who lacks permission to work. The maximum penalty has now been increased to £20,000 for each occasion of finding each illegal worker, so the potential size of the fine can quickly mount up.
If an employer knowingly employs an illegal migrant worker they could be prosecuted and receive an unlimited fine and/or a maximum two year prison sentence.
The term illegal worker is broad. It would include for example, students with expired visas, students working more hours than they’re allowed to, or people working on a visitor’s visa. The rules are very complex and small businesses such as GP and dental practices often lack the necessary expertise to understand them.
It is important to keep careful records every time you employ a person subject to immigration control, and to check their records regularly to ensure ongoing compliance. The Home Office publishes a Code which set out in great detail what records employers should keep, what documents are acceptable in evidence, and what checks they need to make.
If you are suspected of employing an illegal worker you will receive a ‘Referral Notice’ and a visit from the police. If you are subsequently deemed liable you will receive a Notice of Civil Penalty and be ‘named and shamed’ by the Home Office on a list which is always watched carefully by the press. You can object to this Notice and appeal any decisions, and you may well be able to negotiate the level of the fine imposed if you have a reasonable excuse, but time limits are tight and strictly enforced so if you receive one it is important that you urgently contact us.