United Kingdom – New Penalties for Illegal Workers

A new provision in the Immigration Act 2016 sets forth a penalty for workers and or employers that hire a foreign national illegally.  The provision has taken effect July 12, and will not be employed retroactively.  Employers should ensure that the foreign national employee has the right to work in the UK.

Employers that know or should have known that their employee does not have the right to work in the UK will now be subject to an imprisonment of five years, rather than the previous two, and receive an unlimited fine (also known as a ‘civil penalty’) for each illegal worker.  The fine can reach € 20,000 for each illegal worker.

The Home Office released a report on how to accurately perform right to work checks for its employees.

A migrant worker that has reason to believe his or her immigration status has changed, preventing them to work, but continues to do so, will have committed a criminal offense.  This includes:

  • People who work on a visitor’s visa;
  • People doing work that is not listed on their visa;
  • Leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom has not been granted; and
  • Leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom has terminated.

The penalties for working when you know or should have known that you are not able to work are six months imprisonment and or an unlimited fine in England.  The penalties in Scotland and Ireland include an imprisonment of six months and or a fine of the statutory maximum.  The employees’ wages can be seized as well, considered to be proceeds of crime.