Latest illegal working
penalties exceed £7 million

The government has published its latest data on the number of illegal workers discovered in British businesses, and how much has been collected in fines as a result, for the period
1 October-31 December 2018.

The total is in excess of £7 million, based on finding 639 illegal migrant workers.

David Bolt, the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration commented on this information and the department’s productivity:

‘In 2015, the Cabinet Office estimated that there were between 190,000 and 240,000 businesses employing illegal workers in the UK”. If even broadly correct, this would mean that roughly 1% of non-compliant businesses are issued a Civil Penalty in any year, and only a third of these pays up.

‘On these figures, it is hard to imagine that businesses that knowingly employ illegal workers, or those that are negligent in carrying out “right to work” checks, consider they are at serious risk of receiving a Civil Penalty, the more so if they are not in London and the South East and not a restaurant or hotel.’

Bolt was referring to the regional lists, which name each establishment that has fallen foul of the rules. Outside of London and the South-East, the Midlands and North-West England were the biggest offenders. 

As in previous reports, the majority were small businesses such as independent restaurants or fast food outlets. This is thought to be because most enforcement teams’ leads are usually received as anonymous tip-offs from members of the public. He expressed concern that sometimes a business may not even be aware that it was breaking the law, continuing:

‘Many employers, particularly smaller businesses, did not feel confident about checking identity documents and found it difficult to find the relevant guidance on GOV.UK.

‘Since there were “over 200 pages of guidance”, even legal representatives struggled to navigate them.

‘The knock-on effect was that employers were exposed to claims of discrimination or unfair dismissal where individuals did in fact have the right to work in the UK.’

The average penalty was over £12,000 per individual illegal worker, although charges can be as high as £20,000 per person – an amount likely to bankrupt many SMEs.

How Smith Stone Walters can help       

Smith Stone Walters understands the complexity of UK immigration processes, the legal requirements and the issues that cause problems. Our bespoke Immigration Audit Service is tailored to meet your needs and budget and help you to avoid the potential of incurring a penalty. Whether you require information on how to become a Tier 2 sponsor for a migrant worker, a peace-of-mind soft audit or a fully outsourced compliance and document retention solution, we have the answers.

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