Various surveys have been carried out that estimate the number of illegal workers in the UK between 620,000 and 1.1 million.
In his recent statement the immigration minister, James Brokenshire, pledged to ‘use the full force of government machinery’ to hit businesses employing illegal migrants and create a “hostile environment” for illegal immigration. Immigration Enforcement teams will carry out more raids but also bodies such as HM Revenue & Customs, the Gangmasters’ Licensing Authority and Health and Safety Executive will share with the Home Office their records of non-compliance with tax rules, health and safety regulations and other laws. The Home Office is of a view that employers breaching non-immigration rules are also more likely to breach immigration rules and employ illegal workers. These employers are therefore more likely to be audited by the Home Office.
Sanctions for employing illegal workers are severe. Employers can be fined up to £20,000 per person for employing illegal workers and those employers who knowingly employ an illegal worker can be jailed for up to two years. In addition, Tier 2 sponsors are likely to lose their licences. Loss of licence will mean that they cannot continue employing existing migrants and also cannot issue new certificates of sponsorship. A sponsor whose licence is revoked is barred from reapplying for a sponsor licence for 12 months. The sponsored employees will no longer be authorised to work for the sponsor and unless they find another sponsor they will have to depart the UK. Loss of sponsor licence can therefore haveasevereimpact on the sponsor’s businesses and the sponsored migrants.
Employers should ensure that right to work checks are conducted before employing staff and that checks are repeated throughout the entire period of employment for those employees who are visa holders.