Following new rules announced by the Government on 7 August, the civil penalty for employing an illegal worker will be increased significantly from early 2024. The Government has stated that it will be increasing the fines for employers who employ illegal migrants, in an attempt to make it “harder for illegal migrants to work and operate in the UK”, according to Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick.

The fine for employing illegal workers, which was last increased to £15,000 in 2014, will be tripled to £45,000 per worker for first offenders – a huge increase. Repeat offences will now incur an eye-watering fine of £60,000 per worker, up from £20,000.

According to the Home Office, around 4,000 civil penalties (totalling £74 million) have been issued to employers since 2018. This follows a significant clamp down by the Home Office on immigration enforcement activity over the last year. Compliance visits targeting workers without lawful immigration status is up by 50% – its highest level since 2019.

The Government says “there is no excuse for not conducting the appropriate checks and those in breach will now face significantly tougher penalties.”

An employer can obtain a statutory excuse against a civil liability penalty for illegal working by carrying out right to work checks in line with Home Office guidance. In summary, employers should carry out the following steps:

  • First, carry out right to work checks on all prospective employees before their employment starts
  • Secondly, conduct follow-up checks on employees who have time-limited permission to work in the UK
  • Thirdly, keep records of all the checks carried out (and when they were taken)
  • Fourthly, not employ an individual who you know or have “reasonable cause” to believe is an illegal worker.

It is important to take specialist immigration and/or employment law advice where right to work queries arise. If you would like support with carrying out right to work checks or advice on complying with sponsor licence duties for your business, please get in touch with our Corporate Immigration specialists.