Home Office Cracks Down on Illegal Working in the UK

According to a recent UK government report, several thousands of migrants could be working illegally in Britain.

Reports show that many employers do not check whether their prospective employees have a legal right to work in the UK and many are presented with fraudulent documents at the outset. This makes it extremely difficult to check whether their employees have a legal right to work in the UK, exposing employers to potentially serious civil penalties.

The Home Office are very aware of the current situation and are coming down hard on employers who are found to be employing illegal workers:

“To get tougher on illegal workers, we doubled the maximum civil penalty for the employment of an illegal worker to “£20,000”. Home Office, July 2014.

Have you checked that each of your employees has a legal right to work for you?

Remember: it is the duty of allemployers to complete the correct document checks and a legal duty to prevent illegal workers from obtaining work within the UK.

As a UK employer, you have to be absolutely sure that you have carried out the relevant right to work checks properly for each of your employees by:

  1. Confirming that any potential employee has the right to work in the UK; and
  2. Ensuring that the correct right to work documents have been produced; checked in the presence of the holder; copied, dated and filed.

If you do not carry out these checks, then you may be faced with a fine of up to £20,000 for employing each illegal worker!

New government measures introduced to help employers 

In order to help employers, the government has issued simplified guidance for employers to follow when employing migrant workers.

The government has also produced an online step-by-step tool on how to complete the relevant checks and document them properly.

The Home Office have also issued a survey to businesses to see how effectively the changes to the illegal working rules have been communicated in the UK. The questionnaire specifically asks for: the employer’s industry; part of the country where they are based; number of employees; and recruitment processes. This information will allow the government to narrow down the companies who may not be compliant and help them to issue civil penalties to those companies who are employing illegal workers.

Unsure as to whether the right checks have been completed? How we can help

If you are uncertain as to whether you have carried out the correct right to work checks or whether your employees’ documents are valid, then you must seek legal advice. It is better to be safe than sorry.

We have immigration and employment lawyers with a wealth of knowledge and experience in assisting employers with illegal working issues in the UK. We can help by providing you with sound advice and practical assistance to ensure that your checks and employees’ right to work documents are compliant with UK law.

By way of example on how employers can be unaware and get caught out – we recently advised a client who had employed a non-EU National worker with a work permit under Tier 2 of the points based system. Unbeknown to our client, the migrant’s visa was linked to his previous employment meaning the migrant could only work for his previous employer. If they had not checked the individual’s visa with us and UK Visas and Immigration had completed an audit at that time, then our client would have been found to have been employing an illegal migrant and could have been fined up to £20,000.

It is very easy to get caught out, so make sure that you seek the necessary advice first.

The minimal cost of legal advice and getting it right the first time is far more advantageous and beneficial than receiving a fine and a “red flag” on your company name.

Amy Sarraff