The Home Office have been able to issue fines to businesses employing illegal workers since 2008 and produce substantial guidance to employers (84 pages worth) on steps employers must take in order to avoid fines from the Home Office.
So, how much are we talking? Well the maximum fine for an individual worker is now £20,000 (increased from £10,000 in 2014) and in the period from January 2019 – March 2019 £4,450,000 fines were issued in London and the South East of England alone. This amounted to 257 penalties from 357 illegal workers found. In reality, the Home Office have historically collected only about half of the penalties issued, either because they are successfully challenged or evaded by employers. Whether you end up paying the fine or not, it is worth taking a few simple steps to avoid being issued with a fine in the first instance. As even obtaining representation to successfully appeal a fine can be costly.
Rule 1: Checking the employee has the right to work
You need to carry out document checks on the employee to establish the workers right to work. In some instances an HR employee will be perfectly capable of checking the documents and understanding their meaning. In other instances, you may need an immigration lawyer to assist you in reviewing the documents for right to work. For example, it should be fairly obvious to any employer that production of a British passport is sufficient to show that an employee has the right to work. The same would be obvious for a French passport (at least at time of writing!) or a Permit in the employee’s name stating ‘work permitted’. But what about other less clear endorsements such as ‘work restricted’? Or student visas which give a maximum amount of hours in ‘term time’? For more unusual entries it is worthwhile contacting an immigration lawyer.
Rule 2: Keeping copies of documentation
This is where employers often fall down. You are required to review the original documents as well as keep photocopies of the applicant’s documents. If you have done this then you have an excuse to the Home Office, even in cases where you have inadvertently employed an illegal worker. For example, if an employee is illegally in the UK and has submitted fraudulent documents to you and you have retained a copy, you are still not eligible for a fine, provided the document is not obviously fraudulent and provided you did not know the employee was working illegally.
Rule 3: Regular checks for time limited workers
If an employee has indefinite leave to remain, or is British at the time of the initial check of their documents (which should be before they start working for you), then you do not need to do further checks throughout the employment. If the employee has a time limited permit, then you must undertake checks at least every 12 months unless the employees leave is due to expire within 12 months, in which case you should check just before the expiry of their leave.
Westkin Associates has a combined 30 years of experience and is staffed with 20 immigration specialist solicitors. We have worked with a wide range of firms, from start-ups to large multi-national companies. If you have any concerns regarding immigration and avoiding penalties please contact us.
5th Floor, Maddox House,
1 Maddox Street
0207 118 4546