The government has announced this week that employers and landlords who are found to have migrants who don’t have permission to work or stay in the UK working for them, or renting their properties, will face a huge increase in fines. From the start of 2024, the maximum fine for employing an illegal worker will be raised from £20,000 to £60,000. Landlords will also see an increase in fines from £80 to £10,000.
The law states that employers and landlords must undertake checks on their employees and tenants by verifying that they have the right to work and reside in the UK, regardless of nationality. This applies to all written, verbal, and implied contracts, unless they can show a legitimate defence (statutory excuse). The law also stipulates that they should fully understand their responsibility to carry out right to work checks in the prescribed manner and to ensure compliance with the regulations. Ignorance or uncertainty of the regulations isn’t considered a valid excuse against a fine.
For ‘settled’ workers e.g British citizens, EU or EEA Swiss citizens who have pre or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, and people with indefinite leave to remain, the checks must be undertaken once. However, those that are not settled for example: skilled workers, senior or specialist worker visas holders; graduate, student or family visa holders; and dependants of most of the above categories: will need to be checked repeatedly if employers are to establish a continuing, valid statutory excuse against a fine.
Most employers and landlords are not experts when it comes to UK immigration law and it’s clear that they’re not being asked to check just one or two types of visas but a vast array. Spotting ‘illegal migrants’ isn’t always as easy as it seems. Simple innocent errors could lead to huge fines, criminal prosecution, revocation of sponsor licences, reputational damage and even possible claims of discrimination if the checks aren’t correctly applied. And with the huge level of fines now being introduced, livelihoods are potentially at risk.
It is therefore critical that employers and landlords take steps to minimise their risks by conducting audits of right to work/rent check documents and processes; providing or undertaking up to date training about how to complete right to work checks; and getting the right advice quickly where potential illegal working is identified.
If you have any questions about the prevention of illegal workers or tenants please contact our expert immigration team here.
Comment by Mandie Sewa / Head of Immigration / Brevis Law.
If you are an employer facing challenges recruiting overseas nationals into skilled roles, please contact us to discuss if we can help. Alternatively, you can contact Mandie directly via an initial consultation.