What are the Penalties for Employing an Illegal Worker in the UK?

If you are found to be employing an illegal worker or a migrant who has no right to work in the UK, you could face severe penalties. These can include a fine of up to £20,000 per worker, a prison sentence of up to five years, or both. Employers who hire people who are not entitled to work in the UK risk a civil penalty of up to £20,000 per worker. It is also important to remember that employers can be sentenced to five years in prison and an unlimited fine if found guilty of employing a person they knew or had reasonable reason to believe had no right to work in the UK. The civil sanctions regime applies equally to all employers of migrant workers, affecting both employers who choose to ignore their obligations and the most diligent employers who “unknowingly” hire illegal personnel, for example, due to a failure in their onboarding processes.

The consequences of employing illegal workers can be serious, but in circumstances where illegal work is discovered, an employer who has established a legal excuse by properly performing a right-to-work check will be exempt from the civil penalties detailed below. This increase in penalties is not limited only to employers of illegal workers, but extends to landlords who allow illegal immigrants to rent their properties. This increase in civil penalties for employers is an important measure by the Home Office in its approach to cracking down on illegal work in the United Kingdom. The Home Office issues civil penalties once it discovers that an employer employs a person who is not allowed to work in the UK. The ever-expanding “Department of Immigration Control” is gaining momentum as the Government remains committed to cracking down on illegal work, and severe penalties will be imposed on employers who intentionally hire illegal workers or those who unknowingly employ illegal workers without carrying out correct “due diligence” controls. If an employer is found to have hired an illegal worker, there is also a risk of damaging the company's reputation. It is illegal for an employer to hire a person for any position if they are disqualified from performing the job in question because of their immigration status.

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