Fines for employers and landlords who employ or rent to those without correct status set to triple

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Following the announcement that visa fees are to be increased, the government has announced a hike in civil penalty fines for employers and landlords who employ or let properties to foreign nationals who do not have the right to work or reside in the UK.

The planned increases come as part of government announcements on policy to reduce the number of people living and working in the UK without a legal immigration status. Announcing these increases, Minister for Immigration Robert Jenrick said that these changes will focus on ‘unscrupulous landlords and employers who allow illegal working and renting [and therefore] enable the business model of the evil people smugglers to continue’.

Increased penalties are set to commence in early 2024 as a result of changes to legislation in Autumn 2023. Fines for employers who employ illegal workers will triple from £15,000 to £45,000 for a first offence and from £20,000 to £60,000 per breach for repeat offenders.

Fines for landlords who rent to tenants without correct status will also increase from £80 per lodger and £1,000 per occupier to up to £5,000 per lodger and £10,000 per occupier for a first breach. Penalties for repeat breaches will increase from £500 per lodger and £3,000 per occupier to up to £10,000 per lodger and £20,000 per occupier.

These increases only consider the civil liability. An employer or landlord can also face criminal liability if they knowingly employ or let to someone who does not have the correct permission to work or rent in the UK. 

The government also announced that immigration enforcement activity has been stepped up in the last year, with enforcement visits now at their highest levels since 2019, an increase of 50% on the last year following a reduction due to the pandemic. 

The government’s increasingly tough stance on illegal working and renting is clear. Minister for Immigration Robert Jenrick said: “there is no excuse for not conducting the appropriate checks and those in breach will now face significantly tougher penalties.”

Employers and landlords should act quickly and thoroughly to ensure that they can avoid civil penalties. Beyond the extreme financial loss, the identification of illegal working and liability for a civil penalty can have a hugely negative impact on a business. The names of businesses who receive civil penalties are published quarterly by the Home Office as a warning to other businesses and this can of course lead to negative press coverage, risking reputational damage and loss of profits.

On a practical level, the loss of an employee from a business due to illegal working can be disruptive. For businesses that are licenced sponsors, the impact goes even further, as sponsors can lose their licence if they fail to comply with immigration laws and prevent abuse of the immigration system, which would impact all existing sponsored employees. 

Employers and landlords can ensure they are acting in accordance with the law by undertaking right to work or right to rent checks, in line with current Home Office guidance, before offering employment or agreeing to rent a property. It is helpful to have internal right to work/right to rent policies in place to ensure that everyone responsible for carrying out these checks is aware of what is required. Having such a policy in place is also useful to demonstrate to the Home Office that the employer/landlord has adequate systems in place to prevent illegal working/renting. 

Our Shoospeak HR podcast has recently gone back to basics with right to work check requirements if you or your team need a refresher. Our team of immigration advisors can also provide specialist training for your business or assist with any right to work or right to rent enquiries you may have.

Disclaimer

This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024.

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