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Prevent risk and mitigate against penalties

Jul 13, 2023

In June 2023, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak joined one of the Home Office teams which were part of a large-scale operation making over 150 visits to businesses employing illegal workers. Over 100 arrests took place with a number of these being restaurants.

Illegal working remains high on the Government's agenda with plans to increase enforcement by up to 50% this year.

Illegal working penalties can be up to £20,000 per illegal worker and employers who receive a penalty are named publicly on the home Office website which can cause severe reputational damage. Employers who hold sponsor licences need to be aware that illegal working penalties can result in the loss of their sponsor licence, which would result in significant operational disruption for many.

All businesses can act to mitigate the risks, here is some guidance –

Create processes
Ensure there are processes in place in the event of any communications received from the Home Office or any unannounced site visits. This will mean that during an unannounced visit, staff will know how to respond and which colleagues to contact. It is also important to ensure that members of staff corresponding with the Home Office are aware of right to work requirements and the organisation’s data privacy obligations before disclosing any information.

Review right to work processes
Review right to work policies and processes to ensure they are robust and that right to work checks are carried out before employment commences. Right to work checks have changed significantly over the last few years with a move towards digital checks, but some checks still require the original document to be viewed in-person. The in-person checks can be difficult for many organisations who do not have multiple sites or locations in the UK.

Conduct a right to work audit
Audit existing right to work files to ensure that the business has the correct right to work documentation on file for all employees (UK and non-UK nationals). A review should be carried out to ensure that the expiry date of all time-limited visas is being tracked and monitored. If the employer is a registered sponsor, it is also a good opportunity to review the mandatory documents which must be retained for all sponsored workers. The audit could be carried out by internal staff with the relevant know how or externally to obtain an independent analysis.

Check contingent workers
Review the organisation’s approach to checking right to work evidence for those who will not be direct employees of the business and ensuring their visa types permit self-employment (where applicable). A common pitfall is that student visa holders are not permitted to undertake self-employment. 

Train key staff
Arrange regular training for staff with responsibility for right to work checks in the UK to ensure that their knowledge is up to date.

We can of course assist with the preventative steps above. We also offer document check and trial UKVI audits via Zoom/Teams at a fee of £1200 and at your place of work for a fee of £1500. Choose UK Visas for your needs and gain access to support which can mitigate against illegal working penalties.

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