Update: The Immigration Act 2016 – action required

Hazel Coutts

Hazel Coutts provides an update on new immigration legislation.

The Government’s control over illegal migration has been further strengthened by the Immigration Act 2016. The Act (passed before June’s referendum) introduces a range of new powers which aim to tackle illegal employment, restrict banking and accommodation services to illegal migrants and increase the number of deportations from the UK.

Employers should be aware of the following changes which will be implemented from today:

  • It will be an offence to employ a person whom an employer ‘knows’ or ‘has reasonable cause to believe’ is disqualified from employment’.
  • The maximum custodial sentence for conviction of this offence will be 5 years’ imprisonment.
  • Illegal workers may also be subject to a custodial sentence of 6 months and/or a fine.
  • A new role of Director of Labour Market Enforcement is planned to oversee the enforcement agencies and ensure minimum standards for workers are met.

    The Act foresees a number of other changes in respect of which implementation dates are awaited. These include:

    • The introduction of a new ‘immigration skills charge’ on certain employers who sponsor skilled workers from outside the EEA. It is anticipated that this could come into force in April 2017.
    • A duty on public authorities to ensure that each person who works for a public authority in a customer-facing role speaks fluent English (and/or Welsh where appropriate). A code of practice will be published to help authorities comply with this duty.
    • New powers to close premises for up to 48 hours to deal with employers who employ illegal workers and evade sanctions.
    • In light of the civil and criminal sanctions for businesses including the prosecution of directors and senior managers, it is essential that strict policies and procedures are in place to prevent illegal working both at the stage of recruitment and thereafter.

      In future, it may be that restrictions are imposed on European nationals working in the UK. Now may be a good time to audit systems not only to ensure compliance with immigration law but also to understand the demographic of the workforce and the potential impact of Brexit.

      Update: The Immigration Act 2016 – action required

      • Hazel Coutts is a senior associate at MacRoberts.
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