By Sophie Millington, HR Consultant, Alcumus
On Thursday 12th May 2016 the Immigration Bill received Royal Assent and is now the Immigration Act 2016. It introduces new sanctions on illegal working, prevents illegal migrants from accessing services and introduces new measures to enforce immigration laws:
- Prevents illegal migrants from accessing bank accounts, driving licenses and housing in the UK
- Brings in new measures that make it easier to enforce immigration laws and remove illegal immigrants from the country
- Provides co-ordination of regulators that enforce workers’ rights
- Introduces new sanction on employers who employ illegal workers and on illegal workers themselves
This Act may have a significant impact for employers and how they recruit. The criminal offence of knowingly employing an illegal immigrant has been extended to apply to where an employer has a ‘reasonable cause’ to believe that a person is an illegal worker.
If an employer were to be convicted of this offence, then the penalty will increase from two to five years imprisonment. A new provision of the Act also allows for the earnings of illegal workers to be seized under The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
Public authorities are also required to ensure that public sector workers in customer facing roles speak fluent English. Other changes are that the Secretary of State has the power to introduce an immigration skills charge on certain employers who sponsor skilled workers from outside of the European Economic Area. This immigration skills charge is expected to be introduced in April 2017.
A new post of Director of Labour Market Enforcement has been created. This role will involve overseeing and coordinating enforcement of worker exploitation legislation by the three main bodies responsible: the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, the Employment Standards Inspectorate and HMRC.
Suggestions for employers
- Ensure you and your managers understand how to check documents that evidence eligibility to work in the UK, when this should be done and the risks of failing to do so
- If required, speak with your allocated HR Consultant and arrange training for managers regarding eligibility to work in the UK checks
- Ensure your managers understand what they should do if they have any suspicions or concerns regarding an employee’s right to work in the UK
- Update any guidance for managers on eligibility to work in the UK
- Ensure the Employee Handbook is up to date
- Ensure that prospective candidates attending interview understand what documentation they need to bring with them regarding identification and eligibility to work in the UK