News & Insights

Home Office Raids on the Rise

A recent spate of raids suggests a greater focus on enforcement action, as the Home Office looks to crack down on illegal working.

On 15 June 2023, the Home Office made 159 enforcements visits to commercial premises around the UK, finding 105 illegal workers. This does not appear to be a one-off – the Home Office conducted 1,303 enforcement visits in the first quarter of 2023, up 57% from the first quarter of 2022.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, enforcement action more generally, and sponsor compliance visits in particular, dropped off noticeably. This recent flurry of activity suggests that the Home Office may be returning to pre-pandemic levels of enforcement action, in an attempt to tackle illegal working. The Home Secretary framed the raids as a response to channel crossings and organised crime rings, who she claimed were supporting a “black market” for illegal jobs in the UK.

This spate of visits should serve as a reminder to all employers of the importance of carrying out Right to Work checks for new hires. If an employer fails to carry out the correct checks and employs someone who does not have the Right to Work, they could be subject to a fine of £20,000 – even if they did not suspect that the worker in question was an illegal worker. In cases where the employer knows or has reasonable cause to believe that an illegal worker does not have the Right to Work, the punishments are even more severe. Such employers can receive an unlimited fine and up to five years in jail.

For employers with sponsorship licences, allowing them to hire migrants on work visas, this should also act as a warning that compliance visits may become more commonplace. Organisations in the process of applying for a sponsorship licence, or who already have a licence in place, may be subject to an unannounced inspection from the Home Office, to check that the organisation is compliant with its sponsorship duties. Organisations should ensure that they are prepared for such visits, by keeping comprehensive HR and Right to Work records, particularly in relation to migrant workers, and by making sure that any changes to the organisation or to individual sponsored workers are reported on the Sponsorship Management System within the requisite timescales.

If you need a reminder of the current Right to Work process, we recently wrote an article on the latest Right to Work guidance and the checks that you must carry out. We can also provide you with tailored advice on your Right to Work checks.

Alternatively, if you are a licensed sponsor who is unsure about their sponsorship duties and whether they would be compliant in the event of a Home Office inspection, please get in touch at [email protected] If you are interested in obtaining a sponsorship licence, and would like assistance with the process of applying for your licence and with ensuring ongoing compliance with the sponsorship duties, then we would also be happy to assist.