Prevention Of Illegal Working

Recently new legislation has been implemented that changes the steps that employers must take to ensure that they are not employing illegal workers.  The legislation also changes the consequences which employers will face if they fail to do so.

There have been two key changes that employers must take note of:

  • Firstly, the legislation introduced an updated Statutory Code of Practice.  This sets out what employers have to do to prevent illegal working.  Importantly, it changes the documents that need to be checked to establish that employees have the right to work in the UK.  All employers should review the checks they are currently making (and any policies/procedures dealing with this point) to make sure that they are compliant with the new requirements;
  • Secondly, the maximum civil penalty which employers could face for illegally employing individuals who do not have the right to work in the UK has, with effect from 16 May 2014, increased from a fine of £10,000 to £20,000 per illegal employee.

This is an issue for all employers irrespective of their size.  For example, the latest available statistics indicate that employers in the North West region were issued civil penalties totalling £158,750 in the period from 1 July to 30 September 2013. This figure is only set to rise given the increased penalties that are now in force.  However, it’s not all about the financial costs of getting it wrong; for many businesses the potential reputational damage arising from being found to employ individuals illegally, is an equally significant risk.

To avoid employing illegal workers, employers should make sure they are implementing the necessary document checks both on recruitment and, where appropriate, on an ongoing basis.  We recommend that employers implement clear policies and procedures to address this issue and make sure that these policies are understood and implemented properly by staff involved in the recruitment process. These policies will also help avoid the risk of any discrimination claims that might arise where document checks are carried out on an ad hoc or haphazard basis.

If you have any questions regarding the checks which you should be carrying out or if you would like us to review any existing policies and/or prepare new ones that are compliant with the new legislation, please contact Gareth Roberts on 0161 833 8402 or any member of the Employment team.