Avoid Penalties & Reputational Damage: A Proactive Approach to Illegal Working & Right Work Compliance in the UK
The UK’s evolving position on immigration and Right Work has put corporate compliance front and centre. With each change in regulation, the gravity of oversight becomes starkly apparent, signalling the government’s proposed tougher stance. In an announcement on 7th August 2023, Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, the Minister for Immigration, unveiled a plan to significantly increase penalties for businesses found employing illegal workers — the steepest rise since 2014.
The proposal reveals a jump from £15,000 to a frightening £45,000 per illegal worker for a first offence. Repeat offender employers face a penalty rising from £20,000 to £60,000. Jenrick, highlighting the seriousness of this enforcement, shared that employers have been hit with nearly 5,000 civil penalties since 2018, totalling an eye-watering £88.4 million. The intensification of immigration enforcement actions, marking a 50% rise compared to last year and arrests in 2023 already exceeding the total of 2022, provides an unmistakable warning to employers.
These aren’t just arbitrary numbers; they signify pressing challenges UK businesses must navigate. Beyond substantial financial implications, there’s the threat of significant reputational damage from the Home Office’s strategy of public “name and shame”, operational challenges, and potential suspension or revocation of sponsor licenses, jeopardising the continuity of sponsored workers. The challenge increases for businesses with multiple sites, where oversight often gets decentralised, leading to a greater risk of non-compliance. The Home Office has hinted at forthcoming consultations aimed at strengthening actions against businesses with a Home Office Sponsor Licence that employ illegal workers, the proposed measures are in addition to the remote audits previously announced and are now fully operational.
So, where should businesses turn their focus?
We propose a 5-step action plan:
- Regular Audits: Frequently review and audit your employment records. Ensure all your employees have the right to work in the UK. Use mock Home Office Compliance Audits to pinpoint areas that require attention. It’s wise to identify and tackle any issues before the Home Office does.
- Comply with your Sponsor Duties: If you have a Home Office Sponsor Licence, actively manage it within the Sponsor Management System (SMS). It’s not just about having the license but ensuring you’re fulfilling ALL the duties that come with it. Familiarise yourself with these duties and set up robust procedures to handle them efficiently.
- Continuous Training: Equip your HR and recruitment teams with up-to-date knowledge of immigration laws and sponsor duties. A fortified hiring process is the cornerstone of compliance.
- Legal Consultations: Work closely with immigration experts and legal professionals who can offer up-to-date advice and guide you through the ever-evolving landscape.
- Stay Informed: Subscribe to official updates, newsletters, and alerts from the Home Office or immigration experts. Being proactive and staying abreast of the latest changes can be your best defence against inadvertent non-compliance.
By adhering to these steps, companies can not only avoid hefty penalties but also ensure they remain attractive to international talent, thereby leveraging the benefits of a diverse workforce and filling shortages.
If you’re wondering where to start or how to ensure you’ve covered all bases, here at Immtell we are ready to help. We’re dedicated to guiding businesses through the labyrinth of UK immigration matters, ensuring that compliance is more than just a checkbox but a standard operating procedure. Contact us today to start the conversation.