Fines for employing illegal workers to increase

The government has outlined changes to legislation to be made in the new year as part of plans to deter illegal immigration.

29 November 2023

The UK government has announced that from the start of 2024, the overall maximum illegal working civil penalty will be increased from £20,000 to £60,000. In addition, the starting point for a first breach will rise from £15,000 to £45,000. 

The amounts are applied per illegal worker identified. The criminal implications remain unchanged – employers can still face a maximum five-year prison sentence for knowingly employing individuals who don’t have the right to work. 

A civil penalty can be avoided if an employer establishes a statutory excuse by carrying out a right to work check in line with the Home Office’s guidance, and ensuring that checks are properly recorded and retained for the necessary length of time. There is also a requirement to conduct follow-up checks for workers whose immigration permission is time-limited.

Employers are advised to review their current recruitment practices and right to work checking processes to minimise the risk of incurring penalties. They should also ensure those who are responsible for conducting right to work checks are trained to do so and fully understand the requirements. 

When the new legislation is implemented (the exact date yet to be confirmed by the Home Office) the updates will be reflected in the NHS Right to Work Checks Standard and reminder communications will be issued to employers at this point.