We recently blogged about parts of the Immigration Act 2016 which came into force on 12 July 2016 extending criminal offences for employers in relation to illegal working. These sections of the Act also empower immigration officers to search and seize documents in connection with the imposition of a civil penalty where they have reasonable grounds to believe an employer is in breach of their duties to prevent illegal working.
Businesses should also be aware that in certain circumstances, if immigration officers have reasonable grounds to believe an employer is flouting the law, they could issue an “illegal working closure notice” for up to 48 hours enabling them to close the whole business until they have carried out a full investigation. Employers will be prohibited from accessing their premises and the business will be unable to trade for the duration of the closure.
In addition, if the immigration officers require more time to investigate, an application for a compliance order can be made to the court extending the 48-hour time period to anything up to 12 months. The Act gives significant powers to the courts to make orders they feel necessary to ensure businesses are prevented from trading until they are able to demonstrate they are fully compliant with immigration laws.
Home Office statistics from last month reveal that in the financial year 2015/16, Immigration Enforcement issued 2,594 civil penalties to businesses found to be employing illegal workers. Following the introduction of these new provisions, there is no doubt that more employers will be penalised so it’s imperative that employers are aware of these new changes and ensure they’re fully compliant.
Our immigration team regularly advises businesses on how to carry out right to work checks and on compliance issues. We have also successfully challenged the Home Office’s civil penalty notices in cases where employers are able to demonstrate they have complied with immigration laws.