Out-Law / Your Daily Need-To-Know

Hospitality sector continued focus for UK immigration enforcement

Out-Law News | 09 Aug 2022 | 2:46 pm | 1 min. read

New data published by the UK Home Office on illegal working penalties shows that the hospitality sector “remains a focus” for immigration enforcement, according to one legal expert.

Shara Pledger of Pinsent Masons said the statistics demonstrated why businesses operating in the food and drink industry “must remain vigilant” and comply with updated Home Office guidance “to avoid penalties of their own”.

According to the data, collected between 1 October and 31 December 2021, Home Office officials issued 107 fines, worth a total of £1.69 million, relating to 150 people found to be working illegally at 48 UK businesses. More than half of penalties issued went to takeaways or restaurants, with convenience stores, barbers and car washes accounting for most of the rest.

Pledger Shara

Shara Pledger

Senior Associate

Employers can protect themselves from hefty financial penalties by seeking out training on the right to work scheme that covers the legal principles of permission to work and the practical steps needed to check and retain appropriate proof

Pledger said: “It is clear that the hospitality sector remains a focus for immigration enforcement checks. Right to work checks continue to see adjusted measures due to Covid-19, innovation through increased use of technology, and change as the UK's migrant workforce continues to develop post-Brexit. There is much to be done within organisations to ensure total and ongoing compliance with the right to work scheme.”

The highest penalty given to a single business stands at £60,000, although the figures do not necessarily represent the final amount recovered since discounts are available for early payment and some penalties may have been successfully appealed. While companies found to have employed an illegal worker typically face a fine of £15,000 – or £20,000 if they have received a similar penalty in the past – the data suggests many of the most recent fines were set at £10,000.

Pledger said the change was “indicative of businesses cooperating with Home Office investigations” and “receiving a £5,000 discount” as a result. She added: “Early payment of the remaining penalty can reduce it from £10,000 to £7,000 - less than half of the starting value. Businesses can therefore limit their exposure even where illegal working occurs, if applying good practices.”

She added: “Employers can protect themselves from hefty financial penalties by seeking out training on the right to work scheme that covers the legal principles of permission to work and the practical steps needed to check and retain appropriate proof. They should also integrate straightforward processes into their everyday HR procedures.”