Civil Penalty for Employing Illegal Workers

If you’ve received a civil penalty notice, it is crucial to understand your options in respect to the Home Office’s decision. Non-compliance with your legal duties, especially in light of recent legislative changes, could have imminent financial consequences and broader implications such as potentially include suspension and revocation for licenced employers.

Civil Penalty

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What is a Civil Penalty for Illegal Employment?

What is a Civil Penalty for Illegal Employment?

A civil penalty is a fine imposed on businesses that hire employees who do not have the right to work in the UK. The penalty serves as a deterrent and enforces compliance with immigration regulations. Notices related to these penalties include a Referral Notice (Informing the employer of a potential penalty and an investigation) and a Civil Penalty Notice (specifying the fine amount and reasons for the penalty). Employers have options to pay, appeal, or request instalment payments for the penalty.


Recent Changes in Civil Penalties ​

Recent Changes in Civil Penalties ​

The UK government has announced a substantial increase in civil penalties for employers who hire illegal workers. Effective from early 2024, the escalation in fines represents a significant shift in the enforcement landscape. For first-time offences, employers could face fines up to £45,000 per illegal worker, a threefold increase from the current £15,000. More severe are the penalties for repeat breaches, which will see an increase from £20,000 to a staggering £60,000 per worker.

Adept, effective, and dynamic, Jay and his team of legal professionals are dedicated to helping you achieve your immigration goals in a stress-free and timely manner.

Determining the Penalty Amount​

Determining the
Penalty Amount

In cases where an employer hasn’t followed the Home Office’s right to work check guidelines and is liable for a civil penalty, the Home Office considers certain mitigating factors before deciding the penalty amount.

These factors include whether the employer reported suspicions about an employee’s right to work (reducing the penalty by £5,000), active cooperation with the Home Office’s investigations (a further reduction of £5,000), and effective document checking practices coupled with reporting and cooperation (which can convert the penalty into a Warning Notice, eliminating the payment requirement).

Steps After receiving a Civil Penalty​

Steps After Receiving
a Civil Penalty

When you receive a Referral Notice for employing an illegal worker, it indicates your case is under review for a potential civil penalty due to a breach of immigration laws. This notice outlines the alleged breach dates and advises consulting the Home Office’s guide for understanding the civil penalty process. Upon issuance of a civil penalty, you have three choices: contest the fine, request a payment plan, or pay the full amount.

It’s important to respond within 28 days and seek specialised legal advice to determine the most suitable action for your case. Be mindful that appealing the penalty carries the risk of an increased fine if the appeal is unsuccessful.

Reviewing your notice
Examine the notice carefully for details about the penalty, the reasons behind it, and the deadline for action.



What Are Your Options for Paying the Penalty

What Are Your Options for Paying the Penalty

If you choose to pay the penalty, adhere to the guidelines provided in the notice. Below we’ve listed your options.

If you choose to pay the penalty, adhere to the guidelines provided in the notice. This option is straightforward and avoids further legal proceedings.

You can get a reduction of 30% if you make the payment within 21 days of your Civil Penalty Notice. It’s essential to meet the set payment deadlines to prevent any further repercussions.

If you’re unable to pay a civil penalty in full, the Home Office may permit instalments, typically up to 24 months, or in exceptional cases, up to 36 months. The total penalty amount remains unchanged, and the option for a reduced penalty through fast payment isn’t available with instalments.

To apply, you must detail your payment capacity and explain why full payment within 28 days isn’t feasible. Opting for instalments doesn’t impact the time limits for lodging an objection or appeal.

Should you feel the penalty was issued in error or the amount is inaccurate, you are entitled to appeal the decision (prior to the deadline).

This process requires gathering and presenting evidence to support your case. While appealing offers a chance to overturn the penalty, it can be complex and best to be done with help of a law firm.


Grounds for Appeal

Grounds for Appeal

Grounds for objection and appeal include not being liable for the penalty, having a statutory excuse from conducting right to work checks, or disputing the penalty amount as excessively high. Objections must be lodged within 28 days using an Objection Form with supporting evidence. Outcomes can vary from warnings to penalty adjustments. An appeal can be submitted to the County Court if the objection is rejected by the Home Office. Establishing a statutory excuse during a Home Office visit can lead to a No Action Notice, preventing further action and not impacting future cases.

What is a Statutory Excuse​

What is a Statutory Excuse​

Conducting a compliant Right to Work check is essential. If done right, it offers the employer a ‘statutory excuse’ against a civil penalty if it’s later discovered that an employee was working illegally. This means that if you have followed the required procedures correctly, your business can avoid fines even if you inadvertently employed an illegal worker.

What Happens After an Appeal​

What Happens After an Appeal​

Employers options are either to file an object form to the Home Office or submit for an appeal to a County Court if their objection is rejected. The objection form should be completed within 28 days of receiving a Civil Penalty Notice. Objections are based on specific grounds and should include supporting evidence. Responses to an objection include a warning notice, penalty increase, maintenance of the original penalty, reduction, or cancellation. A warning notice serves as a formal alert about non-compliance without imposing a financial penalty but indicates the need for corrective action.


Why Choose Rove Legal

Why Choose Rove Legal

We are committed to establishing long-term connections with our clients. This strategy enhances our understanding of your business, which in turn allows us to deliver more customised and effective strategies for compliance.

1.  Expertise and Specialisation

Our team comprises experienced immigration lawyers and compliance specialists. We bring a wealth of knowledge and a deep understanding of UK immigration law, ensuring that our advice and solutions are not just effective but also forward-thinking.

Your business, challenges and needs are unique. Therefore, our strategy involves offering solutions specifically designed to meet your business’s individual requirements, guaranteeing the highest level of relevance and efficacy.

Our services are structured to be forward-thinking, aiming to keep you ahead of legal developments.

 From initial assessments to ongoing advisory, our support covers the entire spectrum of compliance. Whether it’s conducting right to work checks, training your staff, or representing you in legal matters, we are your comprehensive compliance partner.

Employing workers without a right to work can result in severe consequences such as fines and damaged business and brand reputation. Our services focus on mitigating these risks, ensuring your business maintains a clean compliance record.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

What constitutes a 'Right to Work' Check?

A ‘Right to Work’ check involves verifying a potential employee’s legal right to work in the UK. This process includes examining and authenticating relevant documents like passports, work permits, or resident cards. Employers must follow a specific procedure: obtain original documents, check their validity in the presence of the holder, and retain copies with a record of the date of the check. It’s essential to ensure that these documents are valid and provide clear evidence of the individual’s right to work.

For a valid ‘Right to Work’ check, employers are required to adopt a certain methodology. This involves acquiring the original documents from the employee, such as visas or biometric residence permits, and verifying their authenticity while the document holder is present. Employers should then make and keep copies of these documents, noting the date on which the check was made. It’s critical to check that these documents are up-to-date and explicitly confirm the individual’s eligibility to work in the UK.

Non-compliance with immigration regulations can lead to significant consequences, including hefty financial fines. In severe cases, businesses may face suspension or revocation of their sponsor licences, which can have a profound impact on their ability to employ non-UK workers. Compliance is not only a legal requirement but also crucial for maintaining the reputation and operational capability of the business.

To ensure continuous compliance with immigration regulations, it is recommended that businesses undertake thorough audits of their practices. These audits should be scheduled on a regular basis, preferably once a year, or more frequently if there are significant updates to immigration policies or changes in the company’s personnel structure. The objective of these audits is to identify and rectify any gaps in compliance, thereby safeguarding the business against legal risks.

Upon discovering the employment of an illegal worker, immediate action is necessary. The business should inform the relevant authorities and take corrective steps, including reviewing and strengthening their Right to Work checking processes. It is also crucial to assess and rectify any systemic issues that led to this oversight.

In the event of a Home Office investigation, our firm is equipped to provide comprehensive legal support and representation. We have expertise in immigration law and are experienced in handling such investigations, offering guidance and advocacy to protect your business interests.

Our firm offers extensive training sessions for HR teams and management, covering the latest in immigration compliance and best practices. These sessions include practical guidance on conducting Right to Work checks, understanding immigration documentation, and keeping abreast of legal updates. The aim is to empower teams to manage compliance proactively and effectively.