In the biggest shake up of civil penalties since 2014, the Home Secretary announced on 7 August 2023, that fines for employing illegal workers are to be tripled.

Employers and right to work checks

All UK employers must conduct a right to work check on every individual they intend to hire, in order to prevent illegal working. These checks must be carried out before the individual starts work, and should be completed for every job, whether full-time, part-time, permanent or temporary. There are different ways employers can carry out a compliant right to work check. The type of check will depend on a number of factors such as the individual's nationality and type of permission they hold.

What are the current fines for employing illegal migrants?

The current fines for employing illegal migrants are:

  • £15,000 for a first-time breach
  • £20,000 for repeat breaches

How much will the penalties increase to?

The penalties will triple to:

  • £45,000 for a first-time breach
  • £60,000 for repeat breaches

When will the increased fines be implemented?

The new fines will be come into force from 22 January 2024. The Home Office has published new draft Codes of Practice covering the civil penalty scheme for employers and should be applied to all right to work checks from 22 January 2024 including where a follow-up check is required to maintain a statutory excuse, even if the initial check was undertaken using a previous version of the code which was current at the time

It is also important to note that right to work checks which were carried out in the prescribed manner prior to the new code having effect will be considered by the Secretary of State in line with the version of the code which was current at the time the right to work check was made.

Why are the fines increasing?

The Minister for Immigration Robert Jenrick said:

Making it harder for illegal migrants to work and operate in the UK is vital to deterring dangerous, unnecessary small boat crossings. Unscrupulous landlords and employers who allow illegal working and renting enable the business model of the evil people smugglers to continue.

"There is no excuse for not conducting the appropriate checks and those in breach will now face significantly tougher penalties".

Next steps

With the increased penalties set to come in from 22 January 2024, employers should take this opportunity to ensure that they are up to date with the legal requirements and that the correct checks have been carried out on all current employees.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.