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Civil Penalty for illegal employment

Businesses who employ illegal workers can be issued with illegal working penalties by the Home Office. We can help you to avoid receiving a Civil Penalty with our Sponsor Licence Application Package.

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    What is a Civil Penalty notice?

    Under Section 15 of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006, all employers in the UK are legally obligated to ensure that all of their employees are able to work legally in the UK by carrying out Right to Work Checks. As well as this, all UK employers who wish to hire overseas workers must hold a relevant Sponsor Licence.

    If you are employing illegal workers, hiring foreign workers without a Sponsor Licence or you allow your overseas workers to work without a valid UK visa, then you could receive a Civil Penalty issued under UK immigration law.

    This penalty comes directly from the Home Office and comes in the form of a written warning and a monetary fine. If you receive a UK Civil Penalty, it must be quickly responded to in order to avoid further penalties.

    What are the penalties for employing illegal workers?

    The amount of Civil Penalty an employer will be issued with depends on a number of factors, including whether the employer has been found to be employing illegal workers previously, how many illegal workers they are employing and whether they generally comply with their duties to prevent illegal working.

    If a business is found to be in breach of their immigration duties, the Home Office could issue them with a civil penalty of up to £20,000 for each breach or illegal worker they employ. There are no limits on how many civil penalties the Home Office could issue to an individual business.

    Generally, if it is the first time in a three year period in which the employer is found to have hired illegal workers then a civil penalty of £15,000 per unlawful worker will be issued. If the employer is found to hive hired illegal workers for the second time within a three year period they will usually be served with the highest civil penalty of £20,000 per illegal worker.

    The Home Office will also take into account any mitigating factors and the penalty could be reduced if any of these apply.

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    The impacts of a Civil Penalty

    As well as having to pay a large fine to the Home Office, a Civil Penalty can also result in other significant consequences, particularly if the Home Office finds that you knowingly employed illegal workers. These consequences include:

    • The suspension of your Sponsor Licence
    • An adverse impact on your future credit
    • Being disqualified from your role if you are a company director
    • criminal prosecution (including imprisonment) and an unlimited fine

    The Home Office publish an annual list of all the names of UK businesses who have been issued with Civil Penalties. This can also have a negative impact for businesses, as it can result in:

    • Poor press coverage
    • A loss of reputation and appeal
    • A decrease in profits/business.
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    How to respond to a Civil Penalty notice

    When it comes to responding to a Civil Penalty notice an employer has two options, they can either accept the Civil Penalty or they can object to it.

    If you choose to accept a Civil Penalty for illegal employment then you can arrange a payment plan with the Home Office. If the Home Office receives the full payment within 21 days then they will reward you with a 30% discount on the penalty.

    If you choose to object to the civil penalty it is worth noting that this could result in the Home Office deciding to increase the penalty. For example, if the penalty has been reduced to due the mitigating factor of co-operation with the Home Office, they may decide that by objecting to the penalty you are no long co-operating and could increase it again.

    If you object the penalty, the same people who issued the penalty will review it and they are unlikely to change their mind. This may make an objection seem pointless, however it is a necessary step if you wish to appeal the civil penalty.

    Can you appeal a civil penalty issued under UK immigration law?

    You can only appeal civil penalty notices to the county court if you have first objected to the penalty, you must do this by completing an objection form and filing it with the Home Office within 28 days of receiving the penalty.

    In response to your objection the Home Office will respond with one of the following:

    • Increasing the penalty
    • A Warning Notice
    • A reduction of your penalty
    • Notification that your penalty has been cancelled
    • An notification that your civil penalty has been maintained and why

    If you have received your response and you are still not happy then you can appeal the civil penalty to the county court and you must do this within 28 days of receiving your objection decision.

    How can IAS help?

    As there is a very strict deadline within which you are able to object to or appeal your civil penalty, it is highly advisable that you seek the assistance of an immigration adviser.

    At IAS, we have a team of expert lawyers who are dedicated to making sure that you are aware of your options. One of our advisers will:

    • Talk you through your rights and the correct approach to take objecting a penalty from the Home Office
    • Liaise with the Home Office to find out the details of your alleged offence
    • Assess your right of appeal and advice whether you are able to establish a statutory excuse to defend yourself against a civil penalty or to reduce it
    • Prepare a Letter of Representation, which provides details about your case and any relevant immigration laws; and
    • Act as your legal representative if your appeal is taken to a Tribunal hearing.

    We will assist you throughout the entire duration of your objection, ensuring that you have the full support you need. Make an enquiry online or call 0333 363 8577 to speak with an immigration advice lawyer today.

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    Frequently Asked Questions

    ‘Civil law’ and ‘criminal law’ refer to two different sections of the British justice system. However, many use ‘civil penalty’ and ‘criminal penalty’ interchangeably.

    If you have received a Civil Penalty, there are three courses of action you can take:

    1. You can choose to object the penalty;
    2. You can directly request that a payment instrumental plan is set up by contacting the Home Office; or
    3. You can pay the penalty in full.

    The Home Office has a strict 28 day deadline. Because of this it is important to bear in mind that you will need to make a decision within this time frame to avoid incurring further penalties.

    It is also important to note that there is no extension period for any of these options.

    In situations where you have received a Criminal Penalty, it is advisable to contact us immediately to discuss the circumstances of the penalty and the best course of action for you.

    Our highly-qualified immigration lawyers can help you if you have received, or are worried about receiving a Civil Penalty.

    At IAS, we offer exclusive Immigration Consultancy and Immigration Audit services. These services identify and solve any issues with your business’s HR practices. We also offer full representation should you be looking to appeal a Civil Penalty. Contact us now on 0333 363 8577 or make an enquiry online to speak to a lawyer.

    If you need support, you can get in touch with our LondonManchester, or Birmingham immigration lawyers, or alternatively, use the office finder to find the closest branch to you.

    More information on how to avoid Civil Penalties.

    If the Home Office finds that you are employing migrant workers illegally they can issue you a Civil Penalty of up to £20,000 for each illegal worker.

    If you are found to have knowingly employed illegal workers then you could also face criminal prosecution and an unlimited fine.

    As well as receiving an illegal working Civil Penalty, there are other consequences that you could face as a result of employing an illegal worker, including criminal prosecution.

    As well as having to pay the penalty, civil penalties also come with other consequences that can include:

    • The suspension of your Sponsor Licence
    • An adverse impact on your future credit
    • Being disqualified from your role if you are a company director
    • Damage to the reputation of your business

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