Since 1 December 2016, immigration officials have been granted additional powers enabling them to close business premises for up to 48 hours, pending the outcome of an application for an 'Illegal Working Compliance Order'.
The closure of business premises, issued via a 'Closure Notice', is a fast power which may be used where an employer (or a person connected with the employer) operating at the premises is found to be employing illegal workers and has been previously non-compliant with illegal working legislation. The intention is for immigration officials to use a Closure Notice in the most serious cases, where previous civil penalties and convictions have failed to change employer behaviour and, usually, where a significant proportion of workers on the premises at the time of the visit are illegal. A Closure Notice will not be issued where an employer has a clean immigration record. Where a notice is issued, it is likely to prohibit access to the premises and paid or voluntary work on the premises. In addition to a Closure Notice, consideration will also be given to the service of penalties or prosecution for illegal working and other immigration offences. For further details on the potential sanctions available to the Home Office, including a summary of the new illegal working offences which were enacted in July 2016, please see our related article.
An Illegal Working Compliance Order may follow a Closure Notice. Such orders can be issued by a court for a period of up to 12 months, and extended to 24 months in total, and include conditions relating to the restriction or complete prohibition of certain persons to the premises, require a specified person to carry out right to work checks and to produce documents following such checks that verify compliance with the employer's duty to prevent illegal working. Full details of the requirements for complying with an Illegal Working Compliance Order are set out in The Illegal Working Compliance Orders Regulations 2016, which also came into effect on 1 December 2016.
Where a Closure Notice or Illegal Working Compliance Order is in place, a person who enters a premises or contravenes the order in England and Wales will be committing an offence punishable with up to 6 months' imprisonment and/or a fine.