It has emerged that the Government are planning on introducing measures into the upcoming immigration bill which incorporate stricter laws to strengthen the prohibition of illegal working and the consequences for those caught employing these workers.

The Immigration Act 2006, which sets out the law on employing illegal workers, is often criticised as it can be difficult to calculate the severity of an illegal working offence, and therefore how harsh the penalty should be, leading to inconsistency as to how sanctions are applied. The proposals in the new bill attempt to simplify the way in which the level of the civil penalty is judged.

A further rule change contemplated by the bill is a significant increase in the civil penalty that an employer could be fined for employing illegal workers. The increase would mean a rise from £10,000, as provided for in the 2006 Act, to a new maximum of £20,000 per illegal worker. This demonstrates the Government’s determination to clamp down on illegal working and reinforces how important it now is for all employers to thoroughly carry out the necessary “right to work” checks before engaging any individual.

On the other hand, the new bill contains measures which are hoped will greatly ease the worries of many employers as to whether they are following all the correct processes when employing workers. One major reason for this is because the Home Office are reducing the amount of different documents that an employer has to check before taking on an employee.

The bill will also call a halt to the requirement for employers to repeat such document checks at least once every 12 months after the commencement of employment for those that do not have a permanent right of residence in the UK. Instead, the Government are seeking to reduce the burden on employers by requiring them only to check up on non-EEA nationals when their visa expires.

The new bill arrives at a time when recent statistics show that there is currently the lowest level of migration in a decade. Yet despite all this, the Government remain eager to create even tougher laws related to the right to work.

Tilly Stott