With the recent hike in the fines for illegal working, businesses must be extra diligent to ensure they are compliant with the Immigration Rules. As from 13 February 2024, the fines for employing illegal workers have tripled from £15,000 to £45,000 for a first breach and from £20,000 to £60,000 for each subsequent breach. These fines can affect otherwise perfectly law-abiding businesses legitimately employing foreign workers who can be in immediate jeopardy if they miss a visa renewal date or fail to carry out “right to work” checks correctly.

What are the consequences of employing illegal workers?

The consequences of employing illegal workers do not stop at civil penalties, as criminal charges may also be brought in some circumstances and there is of course potentially huge reputational damage to a business if it is seen to be facilitating illegal employment.

Furthermore, for businesses with a sponsor licence, such breaches could lead to a licence audit and the abrupt revocation of the licence itself, resulting in the cancellation of the work visas of a company’s entire migrant work force.

In the recent case of Prestwick Care Ltd & Ors v Secretary of State for the Home Department 2023, the High Court upheld the Home Office decision to revoke the sponsor licence of a large care home which was found to have breached several areas of its sponsorship duties. The potentially grave implications of the revocation decision to the claimant’s business and the provision of residential care in the areas of its operation was not accepted by the Court as a sufficient reason to overlook its non-compliance with the sponsorship duties. Amongst several other non-compliance areas, the care home’s failure to monitor the immigration status of employees was found to point to a “lack of rigour in following the guidance and record keeping and cannot but have led to the conclusion that the claimant could not be trusted to comply with its duties as sponsor in following the guidance.”

It is therefore crucial for employers to take proactive measures and ensure compliance with immigration duties. These include having a robust process to ensure all employees have the appropriate authorisation to work in the UK, as well as follow-up steps on document keeping and migrant monitoring. In fact, with the appropriate policies and the regular training of staff, being fully compliant with the regulations should not be such a daunting task.

If you have questions or concerns about the issues raised in this article, please contact Tsige Berhanu.

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This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. It should not be used as a substitute for legal advice relating to your particular circumstances. Please note that the law may have changed since the date of this article.