With Thursday’s anticipated net migration figures expected to show that the number of people coming to the UK has again risen, the government has today attempted to deflect criticism of its immigration policy by announcing tough new measures to be included in the forthcoming Immigration Bill, due to be published in the autumn.
This summer’s migrant crises in southern Europe and Calais have forced ministers to intensify the planned crackdown - the proposals are aimed at making the UK less attractive to illegal migrants.
Principal deterrent is the creation of a specific offence of illegal employment. Those found to be working illegally may receive an unlimited fine and imprisonment for up to 6 months.
The checks employers make to ensure their staff have the “right to work” in the UK will be tightened. Failure to carry out the correct checks will potentially lead to a tougher range of punishments against the employer as a company and for individual culpable managers.
The announcement implies that, for persistent offenders, there will be a move away from the use of civil penalties towards criminal prosecution (the current maximum civil penalty is £20,000 per illegal employee). In conjunction with the increased use of criminal prosecution, the maximum sentence for an employer found guilty of employing an illegal worker will be increased from 2 to 5 years.
A very direct warning is made towards pubs, restaurants, takeaways and off-licences that their licences could be removed if they are found to be employing illegal workers. Consideration is to be given as to whether to extend this power to minicab firms and drivers.
Employers who flout the law and evade sanctions could see their business closed for up to 48 hours whilst they prove that “right-to-work” checks have been conducted on staff and that records are up to date.
Courts will also have the power to place the worst offenders under special measures which will include forced closure and ongoing compliance checks.
The Home Office indicated earlier this month that it will concentrate a wave of raids in the coming months targeting illegal employment at building sites, care homes and cleaning contractors.
Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said: "Anyone who thinks the UK is a soft touch should be in no doubt - if you are here illegally, we will take action to stop you from working, renting a flat, opening a bank account or driving a car.
"As a one nation government we will continue to crack down on abuse and build an immigration system that works in the best interests of the British people and those who play by the rules."
Alp Mehmet of Migration Watch UK commented, “More important is for the message to go out that if you are here illegally and caught working, you and your employer will end up in court.”
Employers should be in no doubt, it is clear which way the wind is blowing. Tougher enforcement of the rules on illegal employment is central to the government’s immigration policy. It is imperative that employers ensure their staff have the right to work and that appropriate records are kept of any checks.
If you are an employer worried about your compliance procedures, we will guide you through the complex evidential requirements to ensure your employees have the right to work. We are Law Society accredited specialists with over 20 years experience of providing immigration services to employers. If you require assistance with your UK immigration matters, please contact us on +44 (0)20 7038 3980, via our online contact form or at email@example.com.