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The Immigration Act 2016 – new sanctions to prevent illegal working

Posted: 13/12/2016

In May this year the Immigration Act 2016 received royal assent. The Act introduced new sanctions to tackle illegal migration and illegal working, protect public services and combat exploitation of low-skilled workers. Further Commencement Regulations were made on 31 October which brought two provisions aimed to tackle illegal working into force on 1 December 2016. These provisions built upon earlier illegal working provisions, which were commenced on 12 July.

Below is a summary of the changes:

From 12 July

  • Working illegally is now a criminal offence, which allows the Government to seize wages paid to illegal workers as proceeds of crime. As well as work under a contract of employment, this can also apply to working without permission in a self-employed capacity.
  • The threshold of being found guilty of the offence of employing an illegal worker has been lowered and it is now possible to prosecute employers who employ someone they know, or have reasonable cause to believe, is an illegal worker. Employers also now face a maximum custodial sentence of five years. 

From 1 December

  • A new power came into force allowing immigration officers to close premises for up to 48 hours in the most serious cases where an employer has a history of non-compliance. The notice can then be lifted or extended if the immigration officers obtain a compliance order from the court.
  • Private hire and taxi licence applications are subject to immigration checks. This prevents licences being issued to anyone who does not have the right to work in the UK. 

Further information on the content of the Immigration Act 2016 and guidance on how to complete right to work checks can be found at:

Prevention of illegal working and the issue of civil penalties remains a complex area. The Penningtons Manches immigration team works closely with colleagues in the employment team to ensure that clients receive both immigration advice in relation to prevention of illegal working and employment advice surrounding issues of discrimination.

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