Following the Queen’s speech on 27 May 2015, the Government has now laid its Immigration Bill before Parliament. The Bill implements policies set out in the Conservative Party manifesto, together with proposals in David Cameron’s post-election speech on immigration.
As previously, the drive is in the main against illegal working and residency and those who would profit from it. Immigration Minister James Brokenshire states:
“This Bill will build on the Government’s work since 2010 to crack down on abuse… by deterring illegal migrants from coming and making it harder for those already here to live and work in the UK.“
Headline proposals from an employer/employment perspective are:
Building on the previous increase in the civil penalty imposed on employers for negligently employing illegal migrants to £20,000 per employee, the Bill will make illegal working a criminal offence in its own right. This means that the employee will now also be personally liable for a fine and/or up to six months imprisonment. The main motivation behind this change is that by criminalising illegal working any pay received will then be recoverable from the illegal worker under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
Penalties for employers who employ a migrant whom they “know or have reasonable cause to believe” is an illegal worker is to rise from a maxim of two to five years’ imprisonment.
Employers who flout the law will also risk having their premises closed by the Home Office for 48 hours, with further periods of closure possible upon application to the Courts.
Businesses that require licencing (such as off licences and late night refreshment establishments) will also find that the application or renewal for such licences will be conditional on not having breached immigration law.
In addition and again building on from the Health Surcharge, the Bill will introduce a new “Immigration Skills Charge” under which certain employers will have to pay further sums in order to sponsor non-European Economic Area migrants which will then be used to develop the resident markets skills set i.e. apprenticeships.
Further elements of the Bill that will serve to pile the pressure on illegal immigrants are:
The Right to Rent Scheme introduced under the Immigration Act 2014 and piloted in the Midlands is to be rolled out across the United Kingdom. This scheme is similar to the Right to Work Scheme and requires private landlords, letting agents and home owners to check prospective tenants’ right to be in the country. Landlords who fail to make this check will face a £3,000 penalty for each illegal migrant tenant.
Again, there are further sanctions for those Landlords who would flout the rules with additional fines, up to five years imprisonment and, again, further sanctions under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
A new criminal offence of driving whilst illegally present in the UK will also be introduced. Under this licences can be seized, fines or imprisonment of up to six months made against the migrant, vehicles can be detained and, upon conviction may be forfeit.
So it is going to be harder and certainly a much higher risk for illegal migrants to work, rent or drive.
These proposals are to be backed up by several other measures including:
• the appointment of a new Director of Labour Market Enforcement who will join up the activities of the enforcement bodies (HMRC, Gangmaster Licencing Authority, Employment Standards Inspectorate);
• extending the remit of the “deport now, appeal later” regime;
• expanding Immigration Officers’ search and seizure powers; and
• the removal of lacunas in asylum support that previously allowed failed asylum seekers to nevertheless remain in the United Kingdom.
A final proposal, unusually without a criminal focus, is the introduction of a new Code of Practice under which customer facing public sector employees will be required to have fluency in English.
So there we have it. Immigration issues continue to remain centre stage on the political agenda and we will continue to keep you updated over any developments.
Other blogs of interest: