All UK employers must by law ensure all employees have relevant permissions to work lawfully in the UK by conducting effective Right to Work checks.
Where businesses are found to be in breach of their immigration duties, a civil penalty for illegal employment may be served – up to £20,000 per breach.
What are the penalties for employers who employ illegal workers in the UK?
For employers, it is important to be aware of the penalties that you could be subject to should you be found to have ignored the law. As an employer, you must ensure that your employees have the right to work in the UK, and you must also ensure that your employees’ documents are valid.
Employers are liable for their employees and could be subject to penalties if they;
- hire workers who do not have the correct eligibility to work in the UK; or
- have not carried out extensive employment checks prior to hiring.
In the event that the above actions have not been carried out, the employer may receive a referral notice from the Home Office. This referral notice will notify the employer that their case is being considered and that the investigation could result in the employer having to pay a fine of up to £20,000 per illegal worker.
The employer may subsequently receive a Civil Penalty notice and have up to 28 days to respond to this notice. The notice will detail how to pay the fines, what the next steps are, and also how to appeal the decision (see next FAQ). Your business’s details could also be published by Immigration Enforcement as a warning to other businesses not to employ illegal workers.
The Impact of a Civil Penalty Notice can be far-reaching
As well as the obligation to pay a hefty fine, a civil penalty for illegal employment may result in:
- Criminal prosecution
- Enforced debt action
- County Court judgment
- Tier 2 Sponsor Licence revocation
- Adverse impact on the ability to obtain future credit
- Disqualification of company directors
- Inclusion on the Home Office’s civil penalty offender list
- Bad press, reputational harm and a resulting hit on profits
- Business forced to cease trading