THE NEW Immigration Act is now in force and will potentially affect non-British private hire and taxi drivers in England and Wales.
The criminal offence – of employing an illegal worker – has been amended to now include, not just illegal migrants but also students with expired visas, students working more hours than they’re allowed to, people who work on a visitor’s visa and people doing work that is not listed on their visa.
Taxi and minicab drivers, not previously subject to right-to-work checks because they are self-employed, will now face compulsory immigration checks as part of their licensing regimes under the new act.
Under the new Act, it is an offence for an employer to employ someone they have a “reasonable cause” to believe is an illegal worker, as well as employing someone they know to be an illegal worker.
PENALTIES – The penalty for the offence of employing an illegal worker has increased from two years in prison to five years, as well as an unlimited fine.
Other sanctions include closing a work premises for 48 hours if it is discovered the employer has taken on an illegal worker without carrying out the required background checks.
A business may also be placed under special compliance requirements, which may include continued closure with re-opening dependent upon successful compliance inspections and agreeing to take part in right-to-work checks in future.
Illegal workers themselves also face tough new penalties.
Working illegally is a criminal offence in its own right and those caught breaking the law face six months in prison or a fine. Employee’s wages can also be seized as “proceeds of crime,” if they are working illegally in the UK under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
An employment expert said: “Employers must make sure they see the applicant’s original documents, check that the documents are valid with the applicant present and make and keep copies of the documents and record the date they made the check.”