Illegal Working Civil Penalty Fines

Illegal Working Civil Penalty Fines Tripling from 2024

The Government has announced an increase to the level of Illegal Working Civil Penalty Fines. The civil penalties are imposed on employers that breach their duties under the prevention of illegal working regime. From the start of 2024, Illegal Working Civil Penalty Fines will increase from £15,000 per illegal employee to £45,000. Repeat offences will result in a fine of up to £60,000, currently £20,000.

There is a separate criminal offence where an employer knows, or has reasonable cause to believe that they are employing an illegal worker. The offence carries a maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.

An individual who works illegally also commits a criminal offence, which is punishable through up to six months’ imprisonment and/or a fine. Their earnings may also be confiscated as proceeds of crime.

What Is Changing?

Employing people who don’t have a valid right to work and live in the UK is against the law. Civil penalties cover the situation where an employer employs a person who does not have the required permission to perform the work for which they are recruited.

From the start of 2024, the overall maximum illegal working civil penalty will be increased from £20,000 to £60,000. In addition, the starting point for a first breach will be increased from £15,000 to £45,000. The amounts applied are per illegal worker identified.

Future Changes

The Home Office will also launch a consultation on options it is considering on more stringent compliance action against Points-Based Immigration System sponsors who have been found employing illegal workers.

Checking The Right To Work in the UK

An employer is able to obtain a statutory excuse against liability for an illegal working civil penalty by carrying out right to work checks in line with Home Office guidance.

Each employee’s right to work must be verified before they begin employment, and in some cases, follow-up checks will be required where the worker has a time-limited permission to work. To meet their right to work duties, employers must:

  • Perform right to work checks on all potential employees before the first day of employment.
  • Perform follow-up checks on workers whose permission to reside and work in the UK is temporary.
  • Keep records of all the inspections you perform.
  • Do not employ someone who you know, or have reason to suspect, is an illegal worker.

What To Check, When To Check and How To Avoid Discrimination Claims
Read more about what to check, when to check and how to avoid discrimination claims: Immigration and Asylum Act

Minimising The Risk Of Illegal Working Civil Penalty Fines

In light of the increased fines, employers are advised to review their right to work processes to ensure continued compliance with their obligations and to avoid Home Office enforcement action.

Undertaking the following actions will minimise the risks of being liable for civil penalties and being subject to sponsor compliance action due to illegal working:

  • Carrying out periodic internal and/or external audits of right to work check documentation and processes;
  • Providing ongoing training to staff involved in completing right to work checks;
  • Taking specialist immigration and/or employment law advice where right to work queries arise; and
  • Taking swift advice where potential illegal working is identified.

If you are have a sponsor licence, carrying out broader periodic audits of sponsor licence compliance and having a training program for staff involved in sponsor licence administration is therefore also recommended.

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Illegal Working Civil Penalty Fines


Kathryn is a highly experienced HR Manager with a wealth of skills and knowledge acquired across a variety of industries including manufacturing, health and social care and financial services. She has worked in small localised business and larger multi sited organisations and is comfortable liaising with senior managers and union officials as well as answering queries from team members. Connect with Kathryn on:

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