illegal workers

The recent furore over the resignation of former immigration minister Mark Harper has brought into focus the question of illegal working. It is unlawful to employ an individual who does not have the right to work in the UK, or who is working in breach of their conditions of stay in the UK. Employers need to carry out certain checks, before any individual commences employment, and to keep a record of the checks it has carried out.

The Government carried out a consultation last year to consider strengthening and simplifying the civil penalty scheme to prevent illegal working. There are a number of proposed changes:

  • Increasing the maximum penalty from £10,000 to £20,000 in April 2014. A draft Order has been placed before Parliament and if approved will come into force on 6 April 2014.
  • Setting the penalty for a first breach at £15,000 from April 2014, with second or subsequent breaches incurring a higher penalty.
  • Making it easier to enforce unpaid civil penalties in the civil courts.
  • Enabling employers to reduce the penalty by reporting their suspicions of illegal working, actively co-operating with the Home Office’s investigations and by paying the penalty early.
  • Simplifying the right to work checks, issuing more user-friendly guidance and providing greater support to employers.
  • In the event of employees transferring to a new employer, increasing the grace period for the new employer to carry out checks of original documents from 28 days to 60 days.

Please note it is a criminal offence to knowingly employ an individual who does not have the appropriate permission to undertake the work for which they are employed.

Employers should carry out appropriate checks on all prospective employees, not merely those who appear to be of non-British descent. This will also assist in avoiding discrimination claims. Some helpful guidance can be found here: Home Office Guidance


This week Giles Woolfson appeared on Sky Sports News discussing an interesting take on the Scottish independence debate: what will happen to the ability of footballers to move between an independent Scotland and the remaining UK? The interview can be found here: Giles Woolfson on Sky Sports

Please let us know if you require any advice on any aspect of employment law.

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