News & Insights

Massive Increases in Fines for Businesses Employing Illegal Workers

The Home Office is increasing the maximum fines which can be levied against businesses for employing illegal migrant workers.

Under the current rules, businesses who employ someone who does not have the Right to Work, without properly carrying out the correct Right to Work checks, can face fines of up to £15,000 for a first offence (per worker), with fines rising to £20,000 for businesses who are repeat offenders.

From 2024, these fines will triple across the board, with first time offenders being liable for up to £45,000 and repeat offenders being subject to penalties as high as £60,000. The Home Office have confirmed in their recent update to the code of practice for employers on Illegal Working Penalties that these increases are expected to come into force on the 14th February 2024.

Fines are also drastically increasing for landlords who allow people who do not have the Right to Rent occupy their properties without carrying out the correct Right to Rent checks. For first breaches, the fine per lodger is increasing from £80 to £5,000, and the fine per occupier is increasing from £1,000 to £10,000. Additional breaches can result in penalties as high as £10,000 per lodger and £20,000 per occupier, up from £500 and £3,000 respectively.

Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick said that “Unscrupulous landlords and employers who allow illegal working and renting enable the business model of the evil people smugglers to continue.”

The aim of the Government therefore seems to be to deter people smuggling, but Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper cast doubt on the efficacy of increased fines alone: “Strengthening penalties must be combined with stronger enforcement action if the government is serious about tackling the problems.”

It should also be noted that businesses who deliberately employ individuals that they know or have reasonable cause to believe do not have the Right to Work are already subject to an unlimited fine, and senior staff can face five-year prison sentences. The new tweaks to the penalties therefore target negligent and careless organisations, rather than those which are purposefully skirting around or violating the rules and are therefore unlikely to have much impact in practice on the “unscrupulous employers” that Mr Jenrick refers to.

Regardless, the rise in fines will make it a more pressing concern than ever for businesses to ensure that they properly carry out their Right to Work checks, as the resulting liable of failing to do so could be massive. If you would like advice on your Right to Work checks or process, please get in touch at [email protected]