Employers of foreign workers in the United Kingdom may now face criminal charges if they fail to closely inspect work authorization documents of their foreign employees. Now employers may be criminally liable not just where they knowingly hired foreign workers ineligible to work in the UK, but also where the employer “has reasonable cause to believe” that an employee is ineligible because of his or her immigration status. These new rules came into effect July 12th as a result of the Immigration Act of 2016 enacted in May.
While it has long been the duty of every UK employer to inspect and keep records of their employee’s immigration documents, the new rules eliminate “I didn’t know” as a defense for employing an illegal worker, and the consequences of violation have increased. The penalties for the employer include civil fines and criminal sentences up to five years. Immigration officers have also been given broad new authority to enter the premises of a business suspected of violation, search for evidence, and close the business for 48 hours.