After its announcement in the Queen’s Speech on 27th May 2015, the Immigration Bill is currently winging its way through parliament. Primarily designed to build on measures already implemented by the Immigration Act 2014, and to make it more difficult for illegal migrants to live and work in the UK, employers have a large role to play in this new operation – with non-compliance bringing much tougher sanctions.
Once through the parliamentary process, the Immigration Bill will bring the following changes into effect:
1. Lowering the bar for prosecution
The Immigration Bill will enable employers to be prosecuted if they have ‘reasonable cause’ to believe that one or more of their employees do not have the right to work in the United Kingdom. Currently, the bar is set higher, and employers are liable for criminal prosecution if they know that someone is working illegally. Maximum punishment for this offence will increase from two to five years imprisonment.
2. Right to arrest
The Bill will enable employers to be arrested without a warrant if an immigration officer has reasonable grounds of suspecting that the individual is committing, has committed or attempted to commit the offence of employing an illegal worker.
If an employer has previously breached the law on illegal working, and are then found to have done it again, an immigration officer will be able to issue a notice to close the business premises for up to 48 hours. It will be a criminal offence for a person to remain on, or enter the premises once an illegal working closure notice has been issued, without reasonable excuse. If the employer can show he has conducted the necessary document checks on his employees, the closure notice will be cancelled.
Other measures that will be enforced by the Bill are:
- Introduction of a ‘Director of Labour Market Enforcement’ to monitor and create a strategy which aims to eliminate non-compliance with immigration law and worker exploitation.
- Reform of the function and scope of Gangmasters Licensing Authority to give stronger powers to tackle labour exploitation across the economy.
Implementation of the measures discussed above is expected later this year – we’ll make sure you know as soon as the exact date is announced.