As an employer, you have a duty to prevent illegal working by undertaking document checks to confirm if a person has the right to work in the United Kingdom and carry out the work in question for you before he/she commences employment with you. If you do not carry out these checks you may be required to pay a fine, known as a civil penalty, under section 15 of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 (the ‘2006 Act’) if you employ an illegal worker.

Under the 2006 Act, an “illegal worker” is defined as an adult subject to immigration control if:

(a) he has not been granted leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom, or
(b) his leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom—
(i) is invalid,
(ii) has ceased to have effect (whether by reason of curtailment, revocation, cancellation, passage of time or otherwise), or
(iii) is subject to a condition preventing him from accepting the employment.

From 16 May 2014, a civil penalty of up to £20,000 for each illegal worker can be imposed on you as an employer.

If you knowingly employ an illegal worker and have conducted the document checks, you will not have a statutory excuse against liability for a civil penalty and will commit a criminal offence under section 21 of the 2006 Act. An officer of a body (whether corporate or not) or a partnership (whether or not a limited partnership) may face up to two years’ imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.

UK Visas & Immigration (“UKVI”) has published its quarterly report showing the number of civil penalties for illegal workers found in each region of the UK between 1 October and 31 December 2014 (“the specified period”).

During the specified period, the London & South East region was found to have the highest number and greatest value of penalties and the highest number of illegal workers. Please see the table below for the relevant figures.



London & South East



% of all regions in the UK


Number of penalties







Number of illegal workers found







Value of penalties issued (£)

(gross value of penalties issued)






To access UKVI’s quarterly report, please click here.

Figures published by UKVI show that the value of penalties issued during the specified period in the London & South East region ranged from £5,000 up to £180,000 (the latter penalty being imposed on a Thai Restaurant and Bar in London).

In light of the high level of penalties, it is increasingly important that as an employer you conduct the right to work checks correctly and in accordance with UKVI’s guidance so as to avoid any civil penalties being imposed on you.

The Immigration team at Bates Wells Braithwaite regularly carry out immigration audits for clients to ascertain if they have the correct systems in place in order to avoid the issuance of civil penalties, provide in house training to HR personnel on conducting right to work checks and act for clients whose Sponsor Licences have been suspended or revoked.

If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this article, please contact Chetal Patel, an associate in the Immigration Department on or 020 7551 7741.

Chetal  Patel photo

Chetal Patel

Senior Associate

+44(0)20 7551 7741

View full information about Chetal Patel

Posted on 02/07/2015 in Legal Updates

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