Illegal workers—civil and criminal sanctions

The following Employment practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Illegal workers—civil and criminal sanctions
  • Civil penalty
  • The statutory excuse
  • The penalties
  • Challenging penalties
  • Statutory excuse—manual right to work checks: coronavirus (COVID-19) changes
  • Criminal offences
  • Offence by employers
  • Offence by workers
  • Statutory and other guidance
  • More...

Illegal workers—civil and criminal sanctions

Coronavirus (COVID-19): This Practice Note is updated to take account of changes relating to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. See: Statutory excuse—manual right to work checks: coronavirus (COVID-19) changes, below.

A system of civil and criminal penalties for employers who hire illegal workers exists for employment commencing from 29 February 2008 under the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 (IANA 2006).

A person is an illegal worker if he is a person aged 16 or over who requires leave to enter or remain under the Immigration Act 1971, and:

  1. he has not been granted leave to enter or remain in the UK, or

  2. his leave to enter or remain is not valid or has ceased to have effect for any reason, or

  3. his leave to enter or remain is subject to a condition precluding him from taking up employment

For the purposes of illegal working legislation, employment is considered to be any employment relationship that is under a contract of service or apprenticeship, whether expressed or implied and whether oral or written.

Broadly speaking, from 1 July 2021, EEA citizens and their family members require immigration status in the UK in the same way as other overseas nationals and can no longer rely on certain documents, eg an EEA passport or national identity card, to prove their right to work

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