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Legal Updates

Immigration update: penalties for illegal working

22 July 2016 #Immigration #Inward Investment #Employment

Back in May we blogged about upcoming changes in the Immigration Act 2016. As of 12 July, the offences of illegal working and employing illegal workers in the Act are now in force. What does this mean for employers?

In addition to being penalised where they know for sure that someone is working illegally, employers can now be penalised if they have reasonable cause to believe that an employee does not have the legal right to work in the UK. Falling foul of this new law could result in fines of up to £20,000 per illegal worker and, in some instances, a custodial sentence of up to 5 years.

We won’t know what level of inkling or suspicion constitutes a “reasonable cause to believe” until we see some cases decided under the new law. In the meantime, employers would be wise to ensure they have robust systems for checking and recording all employees’ right to work before they start , and for carrying out repeat checks where required. At Clarkslegal, we often visit clients’ sites to carry out mock audits of their HR files to ensure they’re complying with UKVI requirements and can evidence that their right to work checks are fit for purpose.

Businesses should be aware that the Act also targets workers themselves. If a worker is found to be working illegally, they can now face a custodial sentence of up to 6 months as well as a fine. The Act even goes as far as to say that their earnings can be seized as the proceeds of crime.

Clearly, these new provisions reflect the Government’s tough attitude towards illegal working. In particular, the tougher penalties that will be imposed on employers who hire workers in circumstances where they know or suspect that they do not have the right to work in the UK demonstrates a conscious crack-down on the exploitation of illegal workers.

Finally, businesses might also remember that the Immigration Act will introduce the ‘skills levy’ requiring companies who sponsor workers from outside the EEA to pay £1,000 per worker per year in most cases (the rules will vary for charitable sponsors, PhD level occupations and migrants transferring from a Tier 4 to a Tier 2 visa). This is not due to be implemented until April 2017.

For further information or support with right to work checks, please contact our immigration law team on

For useful immigration factsheets and checklists, please visit 

Clarkslegal, specialist Immigration lawyers in London, Reading and throughout the Thames Valley.
For further information about this or any other Immigration matter please contact Clarkslegal's immigration team by email at by telephone 020 7539 8000 (London office), 0118 958 5321 (Reading office) or by completing the form on this page.
This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.

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