Where businesses are found to be in breach of their immigration duties, a civil penalty for illegal employment may be issued, the penalty can be up to £20,000 per breach. This is a huge penalty – many employers may even not be aware that they are running the risk of incurring this penalty!
What is the Home Office process for issuing a civil penalty notice for illegal working?
Through the civil penalty regime, UKVI ensure employers are compliant with immigration rules by conducting effective Right to Work checks and that all personnel have the relevant permissions to work in the UK.
Whilst this penalty may appear to be significant, however, businesses found in serious breach of their duties can in addition face criminal prosecution.
In most cases, civil penalties are highly lucrative for the Home Office; numerous businesses are issued fines over thousands of pounds on a daily basis.
It is imperative for businesses to take preventative measures to avoid breaching the immigration rules. However, if you find yourself in a situation where you are facing UKVI action and a possible civil penalty notice for illegal working, then help is at hand. We can support and advise about the Home Office process.
Stage 1: Information Gathering
If the Home Office becomes aware or suspicious of potential immigration breaches, this can even happen following an anonymous tip-off (you might want to imagine a disgruntled former employee or unhappy customer). The home office are authorised to act on this information. They may contact you and request a visit to your business in the first instance.
When the Home Office visit your business premises they may examine all HR documents relating to your employees.
It is interesting to note that the Home Office does not need to have concrete evidence of any non-compliance or illegal working to conduct a site inspection.
Where evidence of illegal working is found, a referral will be made to the Civil Penalty Compliance Team.
The Civil Penalty Compliance Team will closely check the information and the evidence. Following this assessment they normally issue an Information Request which seeks:
- Confirmation as to whether you are the employer of the workers identified.
- Confirmation as to whether Right to Work documents were checked
- Confirmation as to whether reports were made of suspected illegal workers.
- Confirmation as to whether you employed the identified workers and when.
The Civil Penalty Compliance team will allow you 10 days to complete and return the Information Request Form together with collaborating evidence.
The information set out in this form will determine the level of civil penalty that shall be issued. In view of this, it is crucial to instruct specialised legal representation.
Stage 2: Civil Penalty Notice Issued for Illegal Working
Once the Civil Penalty Compliance Team has considered your response on Information Request form, they shall decide on the possible course of action.
They may decide at this stage that a Formal Warning Notice – with no penalty – will be issued, or on the alternative a reduced civil penalty if they are satisfied that successful mitigation has taken place.
If a Civil Penalty Notice is however to be issued you will be given 28 days to settle the full payment, set up an instalment plan, or object to the penalty.
You will have to make a decision whether it is worth incurring legal costs to challenge the Civil Penalty or whether you should pay the penalty.
This decision will depend on whether there are strong grounds to object against the allegations in the Civil Penalty Notice, which will result in the penalty being reduced.
Appealing a Civil Penalty Notice – Illegal Working
Once you have been served a civil penalty notice for employing illegal workers you are permitted to pursue an appeal. You may appeal either to lower the level of the original penalty, or to remove the penalty altogether.
It is important to note, however that the Home Office can increase the level of the original penalty at the appeal stage – so it is important to proceed with caution and only make this informed decision about pursuing an appeal after receiving professional advice on this matter.
It is imperative at this stage to obtain specialised legal advice as it is within the Home Office’s rights to issue an increased civil penalty in response to receiving an objection.
At Ansham White we provide a fixed fee assessment at Stage 1 and Stage 2 of the Civil Penalty process, enabling you to determine which option will result in minimal financial loss for your business.
If you have any questions about this article, or any immigration-related queries, please contact Ansham White Solicitors for further details.
Ansham White – Immigration Solicitors in Harrow