Fines for employing illegal workers to triple

  • Disciplinary
Fines for employing illegal workers
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Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

(Last updated )

Whilst it is already a criminal offence to employ illegal migrants and there are currently fines in place, according to a recent announcement by the Home Secretary, the government plan to substantially increase the level of these fines from 2024.  

The fines were last increased in 2014 to their current levels. An employer can be fined £15,000 per illegal worker for a first breach, and £20,000 for repeated breaches. The proposal is to triple these levels so that for a first breach the fine will be £45,000 and for repeated breaches £60,000. The government has said that this increase is now required in response to the number of migrants trying to enter the UK illegally.

Where an employer has ‘reasonable cause to believe’ that the individual does not have the right to work in the UK, in addition to it being a criminal offence, and the above fines, it can also lead to other sanctions. These can include disqualification as a company director, being prohibited from sponsoring migrants and the seizure of earnings made because of the illegal work.

Whilst the government has said that the increases are due to come into effect from 2024, it is not clear exactly when and how they will come into effect. A consultation is due to take place later in 2023 to consider all the options that could be taken to toughen up the sanctions against employers. By discouraging companies from employing illegal migrants, the government hopes that this will then prevent migrants coming to the UK illegally if there are fewer job opportunities.

It serves as a useful reminder, therefore, for employers to ensure that they have right to work checks for all employees on file. If any checks are found to be missing, these should be completed as a matter of urgency. Employers should also review their recruitment processes to ensure that right to work checks are being completed correctly and in accordance with the Home Office’s checking process.  These checks are imperative as they are needed for employers to gain a ‘statutory excuse’ against any such civil penalties. This means that if an employer is found to have employed someone who does not actually have the right to work in the UK, if the correct right to work check has been completed, the employer may not be liable for the fine.

Given the serious consequences already in place and given that these are set to be toughened further employers need to ensure that they are carrying out correct right to work checks now. Don’t forget that these checks also need to be completed by the new employer when employees TUPE transfer.

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