Immigration – More Offences, Greater Penalties and New Charges.

By Oliver Morgan on 8 October 2015

The Government has recently published the Immigration Bill 2015-2016 which contains proposals to further curb illegal working and protect the exploitation of migrant workers. In particular, the Bill proposes:

• increasing the penalties for employers who repeatedly employ illegal migrants as a source of cheap labour;

• extending the existing criminal offence of knowingly employing an illegal migrant to apply where an employer has “reasonable cause to believe” that a person is an illegal worker – the applicable sentence will increase from two to potentially five years;

• to create a new offence of illegal working which will enable the earnings of illegal workers to be seized;

• the power to introduce an “immigration skills charge” on certain employers who sponsor skilled workers (i.e. workers on Tier 2 visas) from outside the EU – this is intended to reduce demand for migrant workers and is likely to mean an additional charge for any worker brought in on a Tier 2 visa; and

• public authorities to be required to ensure that public sector workers in customer-facing roles speak fluent English.

It is envisaged that guidance will be provided in parallel with the passage of the Bill through Parliament.

The broadening of the criminal test for the employment of illegal workers will have relevance for all UK employers with an increased onus on (or incentive for) employers to consider an individual’s right to work and issues of legality during the recruitment process.  Please see our previous article for details of the documentary checks which need to be carried out by all employers.

Perhaps the most intriguing change and one potentially most fraught with difficulty is the new language skills requirement in the public sector.  This could prove practically significant in many respects, not least in its potential for discrimination claims.

Please contact us if you require advice on business immigration issues, such as the points-based immigration system, how to become a sponsor or ensuring that your staff have the necessary permits and visas.

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