Changes to immigrant workers laws (effective from 29th February 2008)

New measures intended to help tackle illegal working come into force on 29 February 2008. The main changes being introduced include:-

  • Civil penalties for employers who employ illegal migrant workers. The proposed maximum penalty is up to £10,000 for each illegal worker;
  • A new criminal offence of knowingly using illegal migrant workers. This will carry a maximum two-year prison sentence and/or unlimited fine;
  • Continuing responsibility for employers to check the ongoing entitlement of migrant workers to work in the UK;
  • A new five-tier points-based system to replace the current work permit system. All migrant workers from outside the European Economic Area, with the exception of highly skilled migrant workers, will require sponsorship from a UK employer to apply for entry to the UK. The new system is still being finalised and on 29 February only the points based system for highly skilled workers will take effect. Employers of migrant workers will have to apply to be licensed as a sponsor and will be subject to various ongoing obligations in order to maintain their licence, including reporting prolonged absences and failure to report for their first day at work; and
  • There will also be a public register for employers who have foreign employees and if an employer fails an inspection they will not be allowed to have any migrant workers.

To avoid incurring the increased civil and criminal penalties, employers who employ migrant workers should ensure they familiarise themselves with their new obligations and put in place systems to ensure compliance. Recruitment processes should include appropriate asylum and immigration checks and employment offers made conditional upon those checks.