Five things your business needs to know about immigration laws

Indeed, at the recent Conservative Party conference, new Home Secretary Amber Rudd hit the headlines with plans for a number of measures to tighten up on immigration and cut the numbers of people coming to the UK.

Some of the suggestions she made might well not come to pass – particularly the plan to list the number of foreign workers a business employs – but it’s important for businesses to be aware that the legislation in this field is likely to change as the UK determines its relationship with Europe and the rest of the world after the vote for ‘Brexit’. That’s going to mean plenty of work for businesses like immigration lawyers in London, as the nation’s cosmopolitan capital comes to term with lots of new legislation that could affect its diverse workforce.

Yet, businesses should also be aware of the fact that the law has already changed this year, with potential repercussions for them and their workforce.

The Immigration Act 2016 became law on May 12, and the first changes under this act came into force on July 12.

So, what should employer know about this act? Firstly, it’s worth stressing that employers who take on a member of staff who is not legally entitled to work in the UK could face legal action and this act aims to make that position tougher. Companies have to check that staff have the right to work in the UK and keep correct records. Writing for HR Magazine, Helen Watson has outlined the documents and practices that businesses should follow to do this properly.

Here are five key rule changes to note:

The maximum punishment just got tougher

Employers who do not abide by the law could face a maximum custodial sentence of five years. This was two years previously. That’s not all; employers could also face a possible penalty of £20,000 per illegal worker.

Illegal workers will be punished too

It isn’t just the employers who will face punishment, employees are also committing an offence by working illegally. They could face a maximum prison sentence of six months and a fine.

Wages will have to be paid back

Any wages paid to illegal immigrants could be recovered by the Government under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

Powers allow for a 48-hour shutdown

Businesses could find themselves shut down for 48 hours by immigration officers if they are suspected of employing an illegal worker.

There’s more to come

These are just the first round of changes. The act is also expected to make a number of other changes to immigration law. From April next year, there will be an ‘immigration skills charge’ for companies that employ migrant workers in skilled jobs. The levy will be £1,000 per employee, per year (or £364 for small companies or charities). The Government says this charge should help to encourage businesses to train up British staff instead.

The changes should serve to hammer home the importance of understanding and abiding by the law when it comes to immigration. Businesses need to be aware of this – and also the fact that the picture is likely to change further as politicians plot the way forward.