The Home Office has published the results of its consultation on the civil penalty scheme to prevent illegal working. The maximum civil penalty for an employer in respect of each illegal worker is to be increased from £10,000 to £20,000, but the range of documents acceptable as evidence of the right to work is to be reduced, the need for annual checks on those documents is to be removed (to be replaced with a check at the point of expiry of the employee’s permission to be in the UK), and the grace period for document checks to be made on employees acquired as a result of a TUPE transfer is to be extended from 28 days to 60 days.  

The maximum penalty would only be considered for those employers who had previously been served with a penalty notice – it would be £15,000 for employers with a first time breach. The Home Office will keep a sliding scale of penalties which reflects that second or subsequent breaches will incur a higher penalty, but will simplify the way in which civil penalties are calculated by removing partial compliance with document checking as a mitigating factor and specifying only two mitigating factors which could each lead to a reduction of £5,000 in the penalty (reporting the suspected illegal workers to the Employer Helpline and active co-operation with the Home Office investigation). It will also improve the recovery of unpaid civil penalties.

The Home Office has confirmed that, aside from the issues dealt with in the Immigration Bill, the other measures resulting from the consultation will be contained in secondary legislation, most of which will be introduced in April 2014.