Government reforms (2): Immigration Act 2016 – Clamping down on illegal working

the-right-to-work-in-the-uk-250What do we already know?

We updated you in our June 2015 Newsflash Queens speech that the Government proposed to introduce “tougher labour market regulation” to tackle illegal working and exploitation through the Immigration Bill.

What’s new?

On 12 May 2016, the final step (Royal Assent) was taken in respect of the Immigration Bill meaning that it is now the Immigration Act 2016 and can now become law.

This Act will bring about some significant changes, not only through a tougher approach to illegal working and exploitation of migrant workers but also by introducing English-speaking requirements for some employment.

In particular the Act includes:

  • Extended criminal offence:  the existing criminal offence of knowingly employing an illegal migrant will be extended to apply where an employer has reasonable cause to believe that a person is an illegal worker. This is likely to result in a higher number of criminal prosecutions and is part of the Government’s plan to prosecute employers who ‘turn a blind eye’ to employing illegal migrants.
  • New offence of ‘illegal working’: this offence will enable the earnings of illegal workers to be seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
  • Immigration Skills Charge:  an immigration skills charge can be levied on certain employers who sponsor skilled workers from outside of the European Economic Area. The charge, due to be introduced in April 2017, will be set at £1,000 per employee per Certificate of Sponsorship per year, and a reduced rate of £364 for small or charitable organisations. It is designed to cut down on the number of businesses taking on migrant workers and incentivise training British staff to fill those jobs.
  • Fluent English requirement:  The Act will also require public authorities to ensure that public sector workers in customer-facing roles speak fluent English. There will be a code of practice published (this is awaited), which will provide guidance to organisations on how to test for fluency.
  • New post of Director of Labour Market Enforcement: The Director will be tasked with over-seeing and co-ordinating enforcement of worker exploitation legislation by the three main bodies responsible: the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, the Employment Standards Inspectorate and HMRC.

The Immigration Act will become law in stages on dates to be announced.

We’ll give more detail on each aspect nearer its implementation date so watch this space…