Restaurants and businesses across the region have been warned to get their employee ‘right to work documents’ in order before the fine for illegal workers triples by the end of January.
Under changes to Government legislation, which come into effect on 22 January 2024, employers in the UK will face initial fines of up to £45,000 per illegal worker – a 300% increase from the current fine of £15,000. For employees involved in repeat breaches, the fine is tripling from £20,000 to £60,000.
Latest figures show that, between January and March 2023, the Midlands and Eastern England received 86 penalties for illegal workers. These fines, totalling £1.8 million, were the highest in the UK.
Now top East Anglian law firm, Ellisons Solicitors, have issued a stark warning for employers based in the East of England to ensure all workers have the right documentation to work in the UK – or face potential business-ending consequences.
Sohan Sidhu, Partner and Head of Immigration at the firm, said: “The Home Office position is that by introducing such significant measures, employers will think twice before engaging in illegal practices and deter people from living in the UK unlawfully.
“While up until now businesses may have been able to weather the storm of a £15,000 fine, the new £45,000 fine means that for many businesses this could spell the end of their enterprise.
Mr Sidhu, who is listed in the Who’s Who Legal – which recognises leading international solicitors in their specialist fields – and is also featured in the Legal 500, continues, “Employers need to be extremely vigilant, especially as civil penalties are not the only consequence for an employer found to be employing illegal workers.
“If the employer holds a Home Office Sponsor Licence, the Home Office has the power to revoke or suspend the Licence. It is also a criminal offence if an employer knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, they are employing an illegal worker. A conviction can lead to imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.”
Although the consequences are substantial, Ellisons Solicitors has advised there are many actions which employers can take to minimise the risk of falling foul of regulations and incurring civil and criminal liability.
Mr Sidhu said, “All employers are required to conduct right to work checks before employment commences, including carrying out follow-up checks against those individuals who have time limited permission to work in the UK.