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On 10 August 2015, the Government announced a crackdown on businesses that employ illegal workers. Immigration Minister, James Brokenshire, has warned that 'the full force of government machinery' will be used to identify employers who are engaging and recruiting illegal migrants.
It is expected that immigration officers will predominantly carry out raids this autumn targeting cleaning firms, construction sites and care homes.
This new drive to end illegal working does not bring any new legislation into force but instead relies on increased enforcement of existing laws.
Employers have a responsibility to prevent illegal working in the UK by ensuring that their employees have the right to work in the UK. If the employer is found to be employing an illegal worker they can be liable to pay a civil penalty of up to £20,000 per illegal worker. Or if an employer has knowingly employed an illegal worker, which is a criminal offence, it can be punished by up to two years' imprisonment and/or an limited fine.
If a check has been done on a prospective employee's right to work in the UK before they start working by checking and copying certain documents, the employer can rely on this check as a statutory defence or excuse against a potential illegal working fine.
The penalties for employing workers who do not have the right to work in the UK are severe and employers should ensure that they are legally compliant in their recruitment practices. Make sure you as an employer have undertaken the correct checks by ensuring the appropriate documents are checked, copied and kept on the employee's file.
For help protecting your business, our immigration lawyers are able to provide tailored legal advice, including an audit of your workforce to identify any risks and to ensure you check, copy and keep the right documents.