The hospitality and leisure industry, with its high reliance on casual staff, is very attractive to migrant workers; indeed the industry relies heavily on them.  However, with annual net migration at a record high, the Government is committed cracking down on illegal workers – both because it undercuts British workers and because dishonest employers often take advantage of those who cannot work legally, paying them poorly and ignoring health and safety measures. 

Immigration Bill 2015-2016

The latest response to the migration crisis is the Immigration Bill 2015-2016 which is currently proceeding through Parliament and is likely to come into force next year.  The Bill builds on existing legislation and introduces new penalties for those who work illegally in the UK and also for those who employ illegal workers.

Of particular concern to the hospitality industry will be the proposed power to close a business for up to 48 hours and the fact that immigration offences will be taken into account by licensing authorities.

The new sanctions include:

  • Making the criminal offence easier to prove. It is currently a criminal offence to knowingly employ an illegal worker.  The Immigration Bill proposes to extend this to “knowingly” employing or “having reasonable cause to believe” that you are employing an illegal worker.  This will make the test for the offence more objective and therefore easier to prove.
  • Increased penalties. The criminal offence of “knowingly” employing an illegal worker carries a custodial sentence which will be increased from a maximum of 2 to a maximum of 5 years’ imprisonment under the new Bill.
  • Potential closure of the business. The Immigration Bill introduces a power to close a business for up to 48 hours if the employer is found to be employing an illegal worker and the employer has previously breached illegal working legislation. The court may then make an illegal working compliance order if appropriate.
  • Loss of licence for licensed premises. The Immigration Bill provides that the commission of immigration offences may be considered by licensing authorities when considering granting or forfeiture of a premises licence.

BEWARE Employing illegal workers could mean that operators are stripped of their licence.

Stringent fines

It is also important to note that the penalty for employing illegal migrants is to up to £20,000 per worker you employ – so a team of 10 illegal waiters or chambermaids could cost you up to £200,000 in fines.

For further details on the law and how to avoid illegal working see our Immigration Guide HERE

The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the present time and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.