Increase in fines for illegal working

On 7 August 2023, the Government announced that it would be increasing the fines issued to employers employing workers with no right to work.  It has finally been decided that the new penalty will be effective from 13 February 2024.

Currently, the civil penalty for employing an illegal worker is a maximum fine of £15,000 per worker for a first-time breach. This will now increase to £45,000 per worker.

Where an employer has repeatedly been found guilty of employing illegal worker, the fine has increased from £20,000 per worker to £60,000 per worker.

The criminal implications remain unchanged and employers if found guilty can be liable to imprisonment for a period of up to five years and/or will have to pay an unlimited fine.

This is yet another development in the Home Office’s clamp down on illegal working. On 30 January 2024, an employer from Cumbria was banned from being a company director for six years for hiring employees without conducting right to work checks. On 18 October 2023, 11 agency workers were arrested by Immigration Enforcement at the London Marriott Hotel Regent Park.  Similarly, in June 2023, over 700 arrests were made in Birmingham.

What can employers do to avoid the fine?

Employers should be vigilant and ensure they carry out all the necessary checks, including but not limited to:

  • Conducting employee’s right to work
  • Retain copies of documents relevant to right to work check - what documents/information did the employer check?
  • Review their internal record system in a timely manner to ensure all employee’s record is up to date
  • Follow up checks on employees whose permission to live in the UK is limited
  • Has sufficient training been given to the staff on their duties and responsibilities to ensure appropriate right to work checks are conducted?
  • Where the employer holds a sponsor licence, have they been complying with their reporting duties?