The first changes under the Immigration Act 2016 come into effect today, 12 July, increasing the penalties for employing illegal workers.
As of today, illegal working will be a criminal offence, with migrants facing a maximum custodial sentence of 6 months and/or an unlimited fine in England and Wales.
The maximum custodial sentence for an employer found to be employing illegal workers increases from two to five years and the fines rise to £20,000 per illegal worker. All wages paid to an illegal immigrant are now recoverable under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and, in certain circumstances, immigration officers will now have the power to close an organisation for up to 48 hours or place it under special compliance measures if it is suspected of employing an illegal worker.
A consultant at ELAS specialising in employment law says it’s now more important than ever for employers to protect themselves by undertaking the proper employment checks on their workers.
“It is important for employers to thoroughly check an employee’s right to work. On the very first day of employment the first thing an employer should do is introduce themselves and then take a copy of their passport, visa or other document that gives them the right to work. It is that critically important that it should be the very first thing an employer does.”
“New starters should be forewarned in their offer letter that they should attend work on their first day with evidence of the right to work and that if they don’t then the start of their employment will be delayed until they can provide it. If a new employee attends work without the relevant proof of right to work then they should be sent home to start the next day and bring the proof with them. If an employee has a visa with an expiry date, a clear diary note should be made to seek an update when the visa is coming to an end. It is not good enough to say that you didn’t realise it had expired.”
Our consultant says that Britain’s vote to leave the EU will not have any effect on these new laws.
“For now Britain remains a member of the EU and all current British and European laws are still in effect. Until Article 50 is triggered to start the withdrawal process nothing will change. Theresa May has said that Brexit means Brexit and, as Prime Minister, she will start the withdrawal process but nothing is likely to happen until at least next year. We can’t predict the future but we can advise on the law as it stands right now. It’s important for businesses to stay abreast of all legislation and any potential changes but, for now at least, its business as usual.”
Further changes to the Immigration Act are due to take effect in April 2017 including requirements for all customer-facing staff in the public sector to speak fluent English (or Welsh if employed in Wales) and a visa levy (immigration skills charge) for employers who sponsor Tier 2 skilled migrant workers (non-EEA nationals).