Employers across the UK are being encouraged to review their current procedures to verify employees’ Right to Work in the UK before more stringent penalties come into force next year, according to an immigration law expert. The Home Office recently announced that fines for employing illegal workers are to rise significantly in 2024. The proposed changes will mean that businesses employing individuals without the appropriate right to work could face fines starting at £45,000 per worker, a three-times increase from the current penalty of £15,000 for a first offence. Repeat offenders might incur fines of as much as £60,000 per illegal worker. These changes are scheduled to come into effect from the beginning of 2024.


Right to Work Checking

All employers in the UK have the legal responsibility to check the identity, and the immigration status of everyone working for them. If the employer has a UK passport, then the decision is straightforward – everyone with a British passport has the automatic right to work and live in the UK. For foreign passport holders the decision is more difficult. There are many different agreements and visa arrangements for people coming to live and work in the UK, and it is the responsibility of the employer to check that the person being recruited has the right visa stamps in their passport. The Home Office runs a special Visas and Immigration helpline to answer questions from employers who are unsure about the status of an individual.

Although most employers know their obligations to check the status of people at the start of their employment, this is not always the case on an ongoing basis. Workers from overseas can have a change of status over time, either by getting full British nationality, or by losing their entitlement to live and work in the UK for whatever reason. The Home Office will expect to see evidence that checks are being repeated every year.


Advice For Employers

Before the new legislation and higher fines come into effect at the start of 2024, experts recommend that employers use the next few months to consider how effective their Right to Work checking procedures really are. The Home Office have an audit team who carry out unannounced compliance visits to employers. They will expect to see proof that the employer has been checking passports and other identity documents, taking copies of the paperwork that they have been shown, and keeping proper records of their checks.

Many experts in the employment sector also recommend that employers start looking around for specialist legal advice before the Home Office come knocking on their door. A good legal adviser can help with evaluating and improving current right to work checking procedures and can offer training for staff who are carrying out the checks. These people know the immigration requirements thoroughly and can keep you out of trouble with the enforcement teams. Take steps now to evaluate your processes and make any changes before the higher fines lead to a rush in the market for legal help.