UK Government warns illegal working fines to triple: simple steps to avoid penalties

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Fines are set to more than triple for employers and landlords who employ or rent to UK immigrants without permission to work or rent the Immigration Minister has announced. We understand that these higher immigration violation fines are due to start in the beginning of next year.

“There is no excuse for not conducting the appropriate checks and those in breach will now face significantly tougher penalties,” said Robert Jenrick. There are indeed simple checks that can easily be carried out to protect yourself, though it is all too easy to make mistakes too.

Employers in the United Kingdom will face penalties surging from up to £15,000 to up to £45,000 per illegal worker for a first breach. Repeated breaches will land employers with fines of up to £60,000 per worker – up from a current £20,000.

The penalty for renting to an immigrant who doesn’t have permission will rise to up to £5,000 per lodger and £10,000 per occupier for a first breach (up from £80 per lodger and £1,000 per occupier).

Contact Ross Kennedy, Senior Client Manager, Vanessa Ganguin Immigration Law for more details.

Repeat breaches will land landlords with fines of up to £10,000 per lodger and £20,000 per occupier (up from £500 and £3,000 respectively).

The Home Office warned it would “consult on options to strengthen action against licensed businesses who are employing illegal workers.” Immigration enforcement activity has already been stepped up with visits including those targeting illegal working, now at their highest levels since 2019.

Simple steps firms can take to avoid illegal working penalties

There are simple steps all employers should be taking to avoid such fines using the digital and physical right to work checks regime in place since pandemic measures allowing remote checks ended last October. These are not changing with the new penalties. The digital and documentary checks landlords can avail themselves of are not changing either.

It’s good practice for employers to carry out regular compliance audits and we can help advise on and help conduct such reviews of checks, record-keeping and sponsor licence duties. Feel free to contact me for more information.

Firms in the UK should be conducting in-person checks on prospective employees if presented with physical documents, other than a Biometric Residence Card (BRC), a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) or a Frontier Worker Permit (FWP), which are no longer accepted as physical evidence of right to work since April 2022.

Alternatively, if the documents presented for Right to Work checks are valid British and Irish passports or Irish passport cards, employers can use one of the certified Identity Service Providers (IDSP) using Identification Document Validation Technology (IDVT) to check one of the above valid documents.  

When an employer is using one of the government certified IDSPs we advise that they keep legible, unalterable copies of Right to Work checks for up to two years after employment ends before destroying them. They should also carry out their own due diligence to satisfy themselves that the service provider has completed the check correctly, and that the photograph and biographic details on the IDVT identity check are consistent with the new employee turning up for work.

If a new employee has an eVisa, BRC, BRP, FWP or has EUSS status, employers should conduct an online right to work check using the free Home Office online checking service.

NB: IDSPs may offer to check prospective employees who are not British or Irish, but unless an employer keeps a record of having done their own check (typing a prospective employee’s share code into the Home Office online checking site) they have no statutory excuse to protect themselves from a penalty if it turns out that their employee has no right to work in the UK at any stage.  Employers cannot rely on checks carried out by IDSPs using the Home Office online service to establish a statutory excuse against the soaring civil penalties.

It is all too easy to make small mistakes such as conducting a right to work check after a new employee has started work (including as part of their induction on their first day) or as mentioned above, relying on an IDSP for a check on an employee who is not British or Irish, or whose passport has expired. Please feel free to contact me to discuss your checks, any issues sponsoring migrant workers, or to arrange a review of your compliance procedures.