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The Home Office has published a 'Draft code of practice on preventing illegal working: Right to Work Scheme for employers' which, once it has been approved by Parliament, will apply to all right to work checks from 22 January 2024.  

The increases to illegal working penalties will take effect from the same date.

The civil penalties for employers employing workers illegally are due to triple. This means that the current civil penalty for employers who employ an individual without the appropriate immigration permission in the UK will rise from £15,000 per illegal worker for a first breach, to £45,000. The current maximum of £20,000 per illegal worker for repeat breaches will rise to £60,000 per illegal worker. 

The draft code sets out how employers can establish a statutory excuse for right to work checks and how civil penalties will be administered and calculated. The code is a statutory code and courts and employment tribunals may take into account any part of the code which is relevant. The code does not cover the criminal sanctions against employers who employ individuals they know or have reasonable cause to believe are working illegally.

This hike in penalties makes it all the more important for employers to ensure that they are conducting proper right to work checks for their employees. Provided that a proper check has been carried out the employer will then have a statutory excuse against a civil penalty if an employee is subsequently found to be illegally working in the UK.