With Brexit dominating the headlines, it is important not to forget that from tomorrow (12 July 2016) certain provisions of the Immigration Act 2016 will be coming into force which are aimed at further deterring workers who do not have the legal right to work in the UK. The provisions of the Immigration Act 2016 are due to be implemented in stages over the coming months and, whilst Brexit will certainly have implications for immigration law in the long-term, in the short-term the provisions which come into effect tomorrow are as follows:

There will be an increase in the criminal penalties which may be applied to employers who employ illegal workers.

It is already a crime to knowingly employ an illegal worker. The penalty is currently a fine of up to £20,000 and up to 2 years in prison. However, experience has shown that proving that an employer knew that an employee was working illegally can be difficult. Therefore, from tomorrow, an employer will be guilty of this criminal offence if that employer has reasonable cause to believe that an employee was working illegally. It is no longer necessary to prove that the employer knew this; only that he should have done in the circumstances. Furthermore, the maximum sentence upon conviction has been increased from 2 to 5 years in prison. The level of the fine remains the same.

Illegal working will become a criminal offence.

At the moment, the sanction applicable for employees guilty of working illegally is deportation, and a record of this being made on that person's immigration file. From tomorrow, working illegally will become a criminal offence which could incur a sanction of up to 6 months in prison and/or a fine which is potentially unlimited. As working illegally will be a crime, any proceeds of working illegally will also be able to be seized as proceeds of crime. This provision in particular has caused concern amongst certain human rights groups who argue that it may lead to illegal workers feeling unable to speak out against exploitation in fear of themselves being guilty of a criminal act.

Whilst employers should already be undertaking appropriate right to work checks, the implementation of these stricter provisions could act as a reminder to make sure that your current right to work checking processes are as robust as they can be.

The ever-changing sphere of immigration law has never been more fluid or uncertain than it will be over the coming months so do give us a call if you need any guidance on these or any other changes brought about by the Immigration Act 2016 or in the future as a result of Brexit.

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