The Home Office has announced that it is currently considering measures to reform the civil penalty scheme to prevent illegal working. These proposed changes follow the Prime Minister’s pledge that the Government intends to “take tougher action against employers of illegal migrant workers, and double the maximum civil penalty against them”. Employers already have a responsibility to check that their employees have the right to work in the UK, and since 2008 this has been underpinned by a civil penalty scheme. New proposals seek to increase the amount an employer can be fined and to make it easier for such penalties to be enforced. At the same time, the Government is proposing a number of measures designed to reduce the administrative burden on employers of complying with right to work checks, with a view to making the prevention of illegal working process easier for legitimate businesses.

Proposals to toughen up the system include:

  • an increase in the maximum penalty from £10,000 to £20,000 per illegal worker, with the maximum fine being imposed on employers which have received a civil penalty in the past;
  • simplifying the way civil penalties are calculated;
  • simplifying the way unpaid penalties can be enforced in the courts; and
  • measures to allow recovery of a civil penalty from directors and partners of limited liability businesses following failure to pay by the business.

The proposals designed to simplify the process for legitimate businesses include:

  • reducing the number of documents an employer needs to check to establish a right to work;
  • replacing annual follow-up checks for non-EEA nationals with checks to coincide with the expiry of permission to be in the country; and
  • simplifying the operation of the right to work process and associated guidance for employers.

The Government’s consultation on these proposals takes the form of an on-line survey which will run for six weeks, from 9 July 2013 until 20 August 2013.

The Home Office maintains that survey responses will inform the development of the proposals and so feedback from employers is important, both with respect to the current system and the challenges currently faced by employers striving to remain compliant, and in relation to the proposed new changes.

Squire Sanders will be submitting a formal response to the consultation and so your feedback is welcome and valuable. If you would like more detailed advice on the proposed changes and would like your views incorporated into our response, or if you would like further advice in relation to the current law on the prevention of illegal working, please contact Annabel Mace at or Supinder Sian at

View the consultation document.