Did you know that as part of the ongoing Government’s push to deter and tackle illegal working, a set of new measures came into force on 12th July?
It’s known as the Immigration Act 2016.
This latest legislation aims to make it more difficult for those living illegally in the UK to work here and access services including bank accounts, housing and jobs. Some believe that this Act is controversial, that it may challenge migrants rights and open up the possibility of discrimination, regardless of the relative merits (or lack thereof) of this new Bill, it will have an impact on UK businesses.
The law is broader
Even before the introduction of this Act, your business could be prosecuted for employing an illegal worker – around 1,200 civil penalties were issued in the second half of 2015 for businesses who were caught not carrying out proper right to work checks. However, a prosecution was based on proof that you had actual knowledge that someone was an illegal worker. The introduction of the 2016 Act means that, in future, if the Home Office considers that your business had ‘reasonable cause to believe’ that an individual was an illegal worker, you may be found to be committing an offence which could lead to imprisonment. So, for example, if you suspect that someone in your team is seeking to work illegally but you don’t actually have evidence, it would now be wise to prevent them from working until you are sure to protect your business fully – that is until they have provided you with satisfactory evidence of their continued right to work in the UK.
The penalties are greater
Not only does the Immigration Act 2016 makes it easier to prosecute anyone who deliberately ‘turns a blind eye’ to employing illegal workers, it also makes sanctions tougher. Since 2014, the civil penalty imposed on a business has been up to £20,000 per illegal worker and this new bill now also increases the maximum custodial sentence from two to five years. In the future, the Act will also introduce powers to close premises where a business is found to be employing illegal migrants.
Criminal offence for illegal workers
A worker who does not have permission to enter the UK, has overstayed their visa or has violated their restricted working conditions could be found guilty of the new offence of ‘illegal working’. This could lead to a prison sentence of up to 6 months and/or a substantial fine.
There are further measures in the Immigration Act which will come into force in the future, including a new offence of aggravated breach of labour market legislation (e.g. by failing to pay the national minimum wage) and imposing strict language requirements, but no date for their introduction has yet been given.
What should you do about it?
These new provisions really highlight the need for vigilance and for your business to remain compliant with Right to Work checks. The extension of the illegal employment offence to include ‘reasonable cause’ means that, more than ever, an employer needs to make sure they have a thorough and consistent process for onboarding and validating staff and can’t just take an individuals’ word for it if there is any evidence to suggest they might be working illegally. This Act also means that, more than ever, employing illegal staff within your organisation could not only be hugely damaging to your brand but could also be enormously disruptive to your business.
• Ensure that your HR or on-boarding team are up to date with the changes in the Immigration Act 2016. The government have produced a series of factsheets to further explain the Act, which you may find helpful: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/immigration-bill-2015-16
• Make sure that you have robust Right to Work checks in place, which can be evidenced to the Home Office should an enforcement visit take place. These checks should be carried out before employment, if possible, and prior to visa expiry dates, to provide you with the Statutory Excuse.
At TrustID, we help businesses like yours with easy and reliable Right to Work checks using electronic document validation software. With a desktop scanner or a simple app on your smartphone, we could help you quickly and easily validate identity documents – e.g. passports, visas or ID card – to make sure that your team are who they say they are and have the right to work in the UK. We could save you time, help give your onboarding staff peace of mind and protect your business from employing illegal workers.
Contact Sarah Croft at Trust ID on 0118 990 1188 quoting FMCW-July