Recent data taken from the Home Office has shown an increase in the amount of civil penalty fines being issued to UK businesses and employers for employing migrants from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) with no right to work in the UK. From 1 April 2015 to 30 June 2015, the Home Office issued 539 civil penalties across the UK, with fines amounting to £10,585,000. These penalties if unchallenged can be quite financially and otherwise costly to businesses. We have highlighted below the grounds to and benefits of challenging such a civil penalty notice below.
Civil Penalty for Businesses Found Hiring Illegal Workers
Employers in the UK have a responsibility to prevent illegal working in the UK by ensuring that their employees have the right to work here. Earlier this year, a study by SterlingBackcheck revealed that 38% of employers fail to check whether their employees have the right to work in the UK.
The UKVI has heavily cracked down the whip in order to ensure that UK businesses and employers are complying with the UK immigration rules and currently the Home Office has wide ranging powers and the ability to do any of the following;
- The Home Office can issue the employer a fine of up to £20,000 per individual found working illegally;
- As a consequence business licences may be revoked such as alcohol licenses, late hours licenses etc ;
- The Home Office can publish details of the employer and the immigration breach on its website which could negatively impact the company’s reputation;
- An employer’s national insurance allowance can be withheld for 12 months;
- In some cases company directors have been disqualified as a result of employing illegal workers; and
- Criminal prosecution of up to two years for employers, where it can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that an employer knew the employee did not have the right to work.
In addition, the new Immigration Bill 2015-2016, proposes to widen the power to criminally prosecute employers to “any employers who knew or had reasonable cause to believe” that an employee was working illegally.
Grounds to Challenge a Civil Penalty Notice
An employer who receives a civil penalty notice will be served with a statement of case by the UKVI, stating the reasons for the issue of the civil penalty notice. This gives the business the opportunity to challenge the decision by objecting to the notice and providing further evidence to demonstrate that:
- They are not liable because they did not employ an illegal worker;
- They performed the required document checks on the illegal employee and therefore have a statutory excuse; or
- The penalty is too high because mitigating factors were not properly taken into account.
If the result of the objection is unfavourable, there are further opportunities to appeal the decision in the County Court on similar grounds.
If an employer successfully challenges the decision to issue a civil penalty notice, by providing evidence that there are mitigating circumstances as described above, the amount of fine issued can be reduced or wiped entirely.
Are You a UK Business Served with a Penalty Notice from Home Office
If you are a UK employer that is found employing an illegal migrant, you would get a ‘referral notice’ from the Home Office to let you know that your case is being considered. The Home Office may also fine you (i.e. a civil penalty) of up to £20,000 for each illegal worker.
The ‘civil penalty notice’ will give the employer payment options and tell you what do next. It will also tell you how to object to the civil penalty and how to appeal. The Home Office may also publish the employer’s details as a warning to other businesses not to employ illegal workers.
Those who are found to have ‘knowingly employed’ an illegal worker, could be sent to jail for up to 2 years and receive an unlimited fine. It is therefore, imperative that employers are aware of the current immigration rules and their duties. If you have received a civil penalty notice and would like to discuss your options, please contact us to arrange a consultation with one of our expert Immigration Solicitors.
If you are a UK business and have been affected by the Home Office’s raids, contact us to discuss this further. Business owners sponsoring migrants from outside the EEA must ensure that they are legally registered to sponsor these migrants and must have a valid Tier 2 Sponsorship Licence. If the Home Office has contacted you in relation to carrying out a compliance visit at your business premises, contact us for legal advice.
Illegal migrants with strong Human Rights arguments ought to take legal advice and regularise their stay in the UK as soon as possible and before it is too late. Contact us to discuss your immigration situation and we will assess your case and provide you with options of regularising your stay.