The Immigration Act 2016 introduced a new criminal offence of illegal working, aimed at individuals as workers, that came into force on 12 July 2016. The Act introduces other illegal working provisions for employers and the issue of certain licences for businesses.
It is now a criminal offence for a person to work in the UK if they know or have reason to believe that they are disqualified from doing so due to their immigration status. The maximum sentence is 51 weeks imprisonment in England and Wales or 6 months imprisonment in Scotland as well as an imposed fine. The kinds of work prohibited under the offence are very wide. It is not limited to a contract of employment but includes contracts to undertake work on a self employed basis, contracts to provide goods or services and also apprenticeships. Any such contract does not need to be in written form, it may be a verbal agreement or simply an understanding.
Since 2006 it has been unlawful to employ a person who was disqualified from employment because of their immigration status. Employers therefore havve to conduct checksto ensure that their employees have the right to work. They risk a fine if they are found to have employed someone who is disqualified. An employer also committed a criminal offence if it was proved that they knew the person did not have the right to work.
The Immigration Act 2016 widens the nature of the criminal offence of employing an illegal worker and increases the penalties for doing so. Now an employer may be prosecuted not only if they knew their employee was disqualified from working but also if they had reasonable cause to believe that the employee did not have the right to work. This therefore means that the employer may be prosecuted if they ought to have known the person did not have the right to work as well as if they did actually know.
The maximum term of imprisonment for the offence of employing an illegal worker is increased from 2 to 5 years.
Further information on the offences of illegal working in terms of the Immigration Act 2016 can be found at ILPA Information service: