UK government pledges tougher action against businesses that repeatedly employ illegal workers

Out-Law News | 27 Aug 2015 | 5:03 pm | 1 min. read

Businesses that continually employ workers who are in the UK illegally could be closed for up to 48 hours while border officials investigate under new measures put forward by the government.

Late night takeaways, pubs and off-licences could also be stripped of their licences to operate as part of the tough new measures, which will be included in the new Immigration Bill. The government said it was also considering whether to extend the same powers to minicab driving and operating licences.

The same legislation will also create a new criminal offence of 'illegal working', with sentences of up to six months in prison and unlimited fines for anyone convicted of working while in the UK illegally. Those convicted could also have any wages paid to them while working illegally confiscated under proceeds of crime laws.

Immigration minister James Brokenshire said that the government was taking action to stop those in the UK illegally "from working, renting a flat, opening a bank account or driving a car".

"Through our new Immigration Bill, illegal workers will face the prospect of a prison term and rogue employers could have their businesses closed, have their licences removed, or face prosecution if they continue to flout the law," he said.

Those who employ people who have no right to work in the UK can already be prosecuted. However, the government intends to "make it easier" to prosecute an employer by changing the evidence requirement, meaning that it will be up to the employer to prove that they took reasonable steps to check the worker's immigration status before employing them. The maximum sentence on conviction will also be increased from two years to five years, and the existing "heavy financial penalties" will remain in place.

Employers that continually break the rules could have their businesses closed by border officials for up to 48 hours while they prove that they have conducted thorough 'right to work' checks on their staff. The worst offenders would then be placed under court-ordered "special measures", which could lead to continued closure and compliance checks, according to the announcement.

The Immigration Bill will be debated by the UK parliament when it returns from summer recess next month. Once passed, the legislation will also create a new criminal offence targeted at landlords and letting agents in England that repeatedly fail to conduct 'right to rent' checks on prospective tenants and do not evict those found to be in the UK illegally.