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Warning for employers as new illegal working offences Act comes into force

11 July 2016

Provisions of the Immigration Act 2016 will be brought into force on 12 July 2016 which will increase the penalties on employers who employ illegal migrants, allow earnings to be recovered from illegal workers and make it a criminal offence for illegal migrants to undertake employment.

Nicola Butterworth, employment law expert with Howes Percival said: "In the financial year 2014/2015 Immigration Enforcement issued 1974 civil penalties to businesses employing illegal workers. In light of the increased penalties employers should ensure that extra care is taken to ensure that the proper right to work due diligence checks are carried out prior to engaging workers."


This new law will make it harder for people to live and work illegally in the UK. The regulations will also impose tougher penalties and sanctions on employers who exploit illegal migrants for their own gain.


The Immigration Act 2016 (Commencement No.1) Regulations 2016 bring certain provisions of the Immigration Act 2016 into force on 12 July 2016 which:

  • Create a new offence of illegal working and enable the earnings of illegal workers to be seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002
  • Extend the existing criminal offence of knowingly employing an illegal migrant to the situation where an employer has a reasonable cause to believe that a person is an illegal worker. Conviction on indictment for this offence will increase from two to five years
  • Creates a new post of Director of Labour Market Enforcement. The Director will be tasked with overseeing and coordinating enforcement of worker exploitation legislation by the three main bodies responsible and producing an annual labour market enforcement strategy.

The following employment provisions of the Immigration Act 2016 are not yet in force and do not have a commencement date:

  • Giving the Secretary of State of power to introduce an immigration skills charge on certain employers who sponsor skilled workers from outside of the European Economic Area (expected to be introduced in April 2017)
  • Requiring public authorities to ensure that public workers in customer-facing roles speak fluent English.