July 2016 –The Home Office has tightened the noose on illegal working even further. This could have a considerable impact on foreign workers and employers alike if ignored.
Sections 34 and 35 of the Immigration Act 2016 came into force on 12 July 2016.
Section 34 amends the Immigration Act 1971 by introducing a new offence of illegal working (section 24B).
Section 35 amends section 21 of the 2006 Act, which sets out the criminal office of employing an illegal worker.
With effect from 12 July 2016, under section 24 B of the 1971 Act (as inserted by section 34 of 2016 Act) a person commits the offence of illegal working if he is:
• subject to immigration control and works when disqualified from doing so by reason of his immigration status; and
• at the time, he knows or has reasonable cause to believe that he is disqualified from working by reason of his immigration status.
A person has been disqualified by reason of his immigration status if:
• he has not been granted leave to enter in the UK; or
• his leave to enter or remain in the UK: – is invalid; or – has ceased to have effect (due to curtailment, or revocation, or cancellation, or passage of time); or
• is subject to a condition preventing the person from doing work of that kind.
In other words, a person commits this offence if they are subject to immigration control and work when they know full well, or have reasonable cause to believe, that they have not permission to do so.
The offence of illegal working is not limited to working under a contract of employment and is intended to cover all types of work, including apprenticeships and self-employment.
Under the new offence, wages from illegal working can be seized as the proceeds of crime. In England and Wales carries a maximum penalty of six months’ imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine. The fine is limited by status in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
EMPLOYING AN ILLEGAL WORKER
Section 21 of the 2006 Act (as amended by section 35 of the 2016 Act) an employer commits an offence if he employs an illegal worker and knows or has reasonable cause to believe that the person has no right to do the work in question. This means that an employer can no longer evade prosecution by claiming that they did not know that the employee in question had no permission to work.
The amended offence allows the investigating agency to prosecute employers when it is found that ‘the employer have reasonable cause to believe that the employee could not undertake the employment, even where they perhaps deliberately ignored the information or circumstances that would have caused the employer to know that the employee lacked permission to work.’
The offence of employing an illegal worker is not limited to staff under a contract of employment, it also applies to contracts of service or apprenticeship, whether expressed or implied, whether oral or in writing.
The maximum sentence on indictment for this offence has been increased from 2 to 5 years.
The civil penalty of up to £20,000 per illegal worker will continue to be applied as sanction in most routine cases – however the Home Office has warned that in serious cases, prosecution may be considered where it is an appropriate response to non compliance.
The UKVI have published a new guide, which can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/536953/An_Employer_s_guide_to_right_to_work_checks_-_July_16.pdf
The guide applies to checks required on or after 16 May 2014.