I previously wrote about the first sections of the Immigration Act 2016 coming into force and the implications for employers. Further sections have been brought into force which build on the previous changes.
The right to work changes are particularly significant and it is vital that employers make sure their policies and procedures are up to date as the UK Government has committed to tackling "illegal working" and the penalties being introduced are severe.
They details of the changes are as follows:
Right to work penalties
From 1 December the UK Government has had additional powers to penalise businesses that are found to have been hiring staff without the right to work. In addition to the potential fines and criminal prosecutions, the Government will now have the power to close premises for up to 48 hours if illegal working has been found to have taken place.
If a business is able to show that they have carried out correct right to work checks the closure notice can be cancelled, but if an improper procedure has been followed the closure notice can be extended by the Sheriff Court and additional compliance requirements can be imposed.
This provision has the potential to be extremely significant for businesses and we recommend that all employers carry out a review of their right to work procedures, and an audit of their records, as soon as possible. Our previous articles on this subject may be of use during the review process. We also offer fixed fee remote audits and policy reviews to help ensure compliance with these requirements.
Labour Market Enforcement Undertakings and Orders
On 25 November 2016 there were significant changes to the way breaches of employment legislation, such as National Minimum Wage Act 1998, are dealt with. Previously, any company breaching the relevant provisions could face fines. However the Immigration Act 2016 provides for greater enforcement powers.
Where a breach is found to have taken place the company can be asked to give a voluntary undertaking to sign up for specific measures designed to reduce the risk of non compliance. Where the company does not agree an order can be sought from the Sheriff Court. Non compliance with any orders could result in a fine, or a prison sentence of up to two years for the company director. These orders are being billed by the UK Government as "ASBOs for businesses".
English language requirement for Public Sector Workers
As of 21 November 2016 Public Sector bodies now have a duty to ensure that Public Sector Workers in customer facing roles will be fluent in English. For Scottish public bodies the legislation only extends to workers dealing with reserved matters and does not cover any matters devolved to the Scottish Parliament.
As part of this obligation the UK Government will issue a Code of Practice for Public Sector Bodies to follow. Once the Code of Practice is issued organisations will need to take care implementing the duty to ensure that they avoid any allegations of discrimination from employees.
If you would like any further information regarding these changes or would like to discuss how we can help you to comply with your obligations to the Home Office please get in touch.