Immigration enforcement ramps up

Whilst press attention has focused on the ongoing crisis in Calais, James Brokenshire, Immigration Minister, has announced this week that "the full force of government machinery" will be used to "hit from all angles" employers who hire illegal migrants, with a particular focus on care homes, building sites and cleaners. 

The promised assault is due to commence this Autumn and will take the form of increased raids, and greater utilisation of agencies such as HM Revenue and Customs, the Health and Safety Executive and the Care Quality Commission.

This development follows swiftly on from the recent announcement that all public sector workers with 'customer facing' roles will be required to meet a minimum standard of English.  Guidance will be produced on how employers should test employees, and this will be subject to a consultation commencing in the Autumn. 

The new language requirements will form part of the Government's new Immigration Bill, details of which were announced in this year's Queen's Speech and include:

  • illegal working being made a criminal offence.  This will allow for wages paid to illegal migrants to be seized as proceeds of crime;
  • creation of a new enforcement agency;
  • employment agencies being prevented from recruiting only from abroad without advertising those jobs in Britain.

This new series of measures will be additional to the current hoops through which employers have to jump in order to engage foreign workers, and existing penalties for employing illegal migrants will remain in place: £20,000 fine per employee for negligently employing illegal workers and unlimited fines / imprisonment for knowingly employing illegal workers.

Given the measures that have already been announced, and the likelihood that the focus on illegal working will continue, employers must ensure that they have their house in order in terms of migrant checks, so that they can

  • avoid criminal or civil liability; and
  • ensure that the statutory defence is available if needed.

To that end, we can assist with audits and advice on immigration issues. If you require any further information, please contact Employment Partner, Ashley Norman.