Right to Work: Get it Right.
With the fines for non-compliance set to triple this month, now is the time for businesses to review their Right to Work practices.
All employers in the UK have a duty to prevent illegal working and must, therefore, carry out right-to-work checks on all staff before employment commences. Any employer who has not completed the required checks and is later found to be employing illegal workers will most likely find themselves on the receiving end of a financial penalty, and a significant one at that.
From 13th February 2024 employers breaching the rules could face the following fines;
- For a first breach within the last three years – £45,000 (up from £15,000)
- For repeat breach (within 3 years of the current breach) – £60,000 (up from £20,000)
These figures represent the maximum civil penalty per illegal worker. A reduction of up to £10,000 may be made in qualifying circumstances (£5,000 for self-reporting the breach to the Home Office and £5,000 for cooperating with the investigation), but regardless, a hefty price is still left to pay.
For a first time breach the penalty may be avoided altogether provided the employer self-reported the breach, co-operated throughout, and can evidence the existence of effective right to work checking practices in the business on top of this. This doesn’t mean that the employer is entirely off the hook though as they will still receive a warning notice meaning any breach within three years of this would incur the repeated breach penalty.
Only the act of carrying out right to work checks correctly, will create a “statutory excuse” to avoid liability for civil penalties altogether. It’s therefore vital that your business has the necessary processes and checks in place to maintain compliance, and now is a good time to check.
It’s important to keep in mind that while right to work checks are mandatory for all prospective hires before employment commences, it is not always a one and done process limited to onboarding. For any individuals with time-limited permission to work in the UK follow-up checks must be completed prior to the expiry of that existing permission (and records of this maintained) to retain the statutory excuse created by the initial check.
Right to work audits are best practice and can be carried out periodically to ensure that documents relating to right to work (i.e., copies of passports/visas etc) do not go missing and that re-checks are completed in good time.
The financial penalties for breach right to work requirements are significant and could alone knock an SME off its feet. Depending on the severity of the breach however, this may not be the worst of it. Penalties can be accompanied by criminal convictions, business closures, and reputation damage, so it’s important to get right to work, right.
If you require further advice or support on this, please contact our Legal Director ,Charlotte Geesin, who is qualified to advise on Immigration matters.