The most significant changes relate to the penalties for employers found to be employing a person without the right to work. An employer found to be hiring someone without the right to work faces a fine of up to £20,000. Until recently, an employer could also face criminal penalties if they were aware of the employee's position but did not dismiss them. In these cases the usual £20,000 limit does not apply and the Home Office have the right to impose a higher fine.
The Immigration Act 2016 has reduced the threshold for criminal penalties so that actual "awareness" is not required - they can now apply whenever an employer has "reasonable cause to believe" an employee does not have the right to work. The lower threshold is particularly significant in cases where an employer suspects an employee is not entitled to work and intends to investigate this. In the past we have seen several cases where employers in this situation have suspended an employee to allow investigations to take place, but under the new threshold they would potentially be committing a criminal offence by taking this course of action.
The Home Office have published new guidance on how to carry out right to work checks and it is important that employers take this opportunity to review their own processes and procedures for carrying out such checks. Following the correct procedures can minimise the risk of issues arising and also provides a defence to any potential penalties. Where an issue does arise it is important that the correct steps are taken to protect the company from any criminal or civil penalties.
If you have any questions about carrying out a right to work check, implementing a right to work policy, carrying out a compliance audit or handling any issues which arise please get in touch.