The Immigration Bill received Royal Assent and became the Immigration Act on 12th May 2016. In conjunction with the Immigration Bill 2014, it aims to lessen the appeal of the UK to illegal migrants. Together they address what is essentially a two-fold problem: the entry of people into the UK illegally and the exploitation of vulnerable migrants lured to the UK with false promises. In recent years the UK has experienced an increase in the entry of illegal workers into the UK, a result of ineffective immigration controls.
“The message is clear – if you are here illegally, you shouldn’t be entitled to receive the everyday benefits and services available to hard-working UK families and people who have come to this country legitimately to contribute.”
James Brokenshire, Immigration Minister
The new Act makes it unlawful for illegal migrants to access housing, driving licences and bank accounts. Working illegally is now a criminal offence that carries a maximum custodial sentence of up to 6 months. The earnings of illegal workers will also be seized.
The Act has introduced a new immigration skills charge which will apply to certain employers wanting to bring certain workers to the UK. The charge will finance initiatives to build skills in the resident labour market. The Act also states that front line public sector workers must be able to speak fluent English.
Why should an employer take any notice?
Under the Immigration Bill 2014, employers could find themselves faced with fines of up to £20,000 per illegal worker. A Home Office report revealed that during the period 1 April to 30 June 2015, a total of 405 illegal workers were found, the total value of penalties issued was £4,995,000*. Something to bear in mind is that these figures are only for London and the South East!
*This figure represents the gross values of penalties issued which would be subjected to objections and appeals
The onus on employers to carry out the necessary checks on employees becomes even more critical. A conviction of indictment for employers who employ illegal migrants has increased to 5 years where previously it was 2 years. In these circumstances an employer must have ‘known or had reason to believe’ that they were employing an illegal worker. The Bill gives officials the power to shut down Company premises for up to 48 hours, a preventative measure for employers trying to avoid investigation and penalties.
On 8th August 2015, officials conducted a dawn raid on the UK’s biggest sandwich producer, Greencore. It was discovered that the Company was employing 32 alleged illegal workers. The Company was faced with fines of up to £20,000 per illegal worker, possible prison sentences and bad press. That’s a potential total fine of £640,000!
In another case, in December 2014, Ms Goh, director of a restaurant company based in Newcastle was disqualified from being a director for 7 years as her company employed 3 illegal workers. The Company had to pay £15,000 and went into liquidation.
How can our HR Consultancy team help?
- We can help you carry out a review of your current processes for checking employees’ rights to work in the UK. Checks on new employees should be carried out in a fair manner preferably starting at the second stage interview. We can advise you on acceptable documents to prove someone’s eligibility to work in the UK. It is highly recommended that an audit of existing employee files be conducted and we are happy to help with this.
- Familiarise yourself with the Tier system. For example, did you know that students on a Tier 4 visa can only work for 20 hours a week (40 hours per week during holidays)? With our input you can implement systems to manage the entire process effectively.
Our HR specialists can help you to get to grips with the Tier system. Numerous clients have recently benefitted from our advice on work permits and visas.
- We are holders of a sponsor licence ourselves and have strong links with migration experts. We can ensure that you are supported and have access to our experts, who will be able to allay any concerns that you have.
The Home Office is taking a stricter stance in this area so we are recommending that all our clients reduce any risks to their businesses. Take a proactive stance and get in touch with us today.