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Tougher penalties for illegal employees now in force

20 June 2014

Fines for employers found with illegal workers on their staff have doubled to £20,000 for each individual worker, under new Home Office measures aimed at clamping down on illegal working.

The increased penalty also applies to businesses that take on students to work outside the terms of their visa.

Under a new Home Office code of practice, the list of acceptable documents used in checks has been reduced and additional checks must be made on working students who have permission to study in the UK. It also recommends that employers carry out statutory right-to-work checks for all prospective workers, and not just those who are from an ethnic minority or have a foreign accent – a practice that would be discriminatory.

The Home Office has however removed the need for employers to carry out repeat checks on right-to-work status for migrant workers every 12 months, and has linked those checks to visa expiry dates. Employers also now have a 60 day period rather than 28 days to ensure that all staff are compliant following a TUPE transfer.

Jill Turner, an immigration and employment law specialist at Pinsent Masons' Aberdeen office, warned that employers need to carry out more stringent checks on documents that verify an individual’s right-to-work status.

“The real difficulty will be that employers may not now be holding the right documents to say anyone – migrant or not – has the right to work", she commented.

“Under the new code, employers must request a copy of the student term and vacation dates as additional evidence to ensure that Tier 4 students are not working in breach of the restrictions on the number of hours that can be worked per week during term or vacation.

“The financial penalties are significant and we would emphasise the importance of businesses having appropriate procedures in place to ensure that correct documentation and evidence is being obtained in relation to all workers before their employment commences.”

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