The Immigration Act 2016 gave the Home Office additional powers to combat illegal working, and the UK Government is committed to increasing the number of right to work visits. If a business is found to have hired someone without the correct visa it could face:
- Fines of up to £15,000 for a first offence, and £20,000 for any subsequent offences.
- Potential criminal penalties for directors, and an unlimited fine, if someone is working illegally and appropriate procedures are not in place to check the employee’s right to work.
- The closure of premises for up to 48 hours to allow the Home Office to carry out further investigations of employees’ right to work.
Against this background, it is of the utmost importance that businesses take steps to review their processes against the latest Home Office guidance. The Home Office guidance changes on a regular basis, and even small changes can have implications. If the guidance is not followed the employer will not have a defence against an illegal working fine should the employee found to be working without the relevant permission.
In our experience, many businesses’ processes fall short of the Home Office guidance. Common problems can include:
- Reliance on documents which do not appear on the Home Office checklist of acceptable documents, for example National Insurance numbers or birth certificates (these can only be relied on in very specific circumstances).
- Failure to carry out continual right to work checks on all employees with temporary visas.
- Many employers copy the original passport or visa but neither sign nor date the copy.
- Recent changes to the guidance mean that any checks carried out since 2014 should contain a declaration confirming the original document was seen.
- Failure to identify when follow up checks are required.
Given the potential penalties for inadvertently hiring someone without the right to work it is recommended that all employers audit their existing records in order to identify any issues before an unannounced visit from the Home Office.
We provide support to businesses by carrying out right to work audits and providing training to staff on how to carry out checks correctly. Our support packages start from just £750 + VAT and can be tailored to fit your organisation’s needs.
If you would like to discuss any immigration issues and how we can assist with these, please do not hesitate to get in touch.