11 December 2023
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Introducing the UK's New Code of Practice on Preventing Illegal Working

To The Point

On 15 November 2023, the UK introduced its latest Code of Practice on the Prevention of Illegal Working (Draft Code) in line with its ongoing commitment to maintain a fair and lawful labour market. The Draft Code sets out how employers can establish a statutory excuse for right to work checks (including repeat checks for those with a time limited right to work in the UK) and how civil penalties will be administered and calculated from 22 January 2024. 

Illegal working creates significant challenges for both businesses and the wider economy, and employers are expected to comply with the rules set out by the Home Office in order to ensure that they only employ those with a lawful right to work in the UK. 

If an employer is found to be employing someone who does not have valid right to work in the UK (an 'illegal worker'), the Home Office may impose a civil penalty. Currently, the starting point/ maximum amount for a civil penalty is £15,000 for a first breach and £20,000 for any subsequent breach within a three-year period. The Draft Code, which will apply from 22 January 2024, introduces a notable change to the civil penalty amounts, resulting in a tripling of the current figures:   

  • First breach: the starting point will increase to £45,000, before reductions are applied.
  • Subsequent breach:  the starting point will increase to £60,000, before reductions are applied. 

As in the current Code of Practice, an employer may have the opportunity to pay a reduced civil penalty if they can demonstrate that they have already reported the breach to the Home Office, are actively cooperating with the Home Office and, for first time breaches only, they can show that they have effective right to work checking practices in place. The existing 30% reduction for early payment will also continue to apply (applicable for a first breach penalty only).

Next steps

The Draft Code does not introduce any major changes in terms of how right to work checks must be completed but, in light of the increases to the civil penalty amounts, employers are encouraged to familiarise themselves with the provisions of the Draft Code and implement/ maintain appropriate procedures in order to ensure compliance.

To the Point 

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