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Changes to illegal working offences introduced by the Immigration Act 2016 came into force on 12 July 2016, making changes to the rules on employing illegal workers including the criminal offence of employing an illegal worker.
These changes include:
Under the new Act, it is an offence for an employer to employ someone they have reasonable cause to believe is an illegal worker as well as employing someone they know to be an illegal worker.
The penalty for the above criminal offence of employing illegal workers is being increased from 2 years' imprisonment to up to 5 years.
An employer's premises can be closed for up to 48 hours where a business employs illegal workers. If the employer can prove they have conducted right to work checks, the closure notice may be cancelled. If the employer cannot show theses checks have been done, their business may be placed under special compliance requirements which may include continued closure followed by re-opening, subject to compliance inspections and having to conduct right to work checks.
Applying for a licence to sell alcohol or late night refreshments will also be made conditional on not breaching immigration laws, including employing illegal workers.
Illegal working will be a criminal offence in its own right, with workers able to be prosecuted and face a fine or maximum imprisonment of 6 months for working in the UK without permission.
Employees' wages can now be seized as proceeds of crime if they are working in the UK illegally under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
Self-employed taxi drivers and private hire drivers are usually self-employed and before this new Act were not subject to right to work checks. Under the new Act, immigration checks will be made compulsory as part of existing licensing regimes.
It is now even more important that employers conduct right to work checks on their prospective employees before they commence working for them.