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If you’re running a business, you’ll know how important it is to make sure that everyone working for you has the right to work legally in the UK. The Home Office is intensifying efforts against illegal employment, particularly in the hospitality sector, with a recent announcement that fines are to triple, and that enforcement operations are to be increased by 50% through the rest of 2024. If you are not running identity checks on your staff already, then it’s not only your bank balance which could take damage. The bad publicity and reputational damage associated with being found with illegal workers can deter customers from coming to your business, at a time when hospitality is struggling to recover from the lasting effects of the Covid pandemic.

The Home Office civil penalty for employers found to be employing illegal workers is to rise from £15,000 to as much as £45,000 per illegal worker in February 2024, and from £20,000 to £60,000 per illegal worker for repeat offenders.

Importance of Checking Right to Work

The Home Office enforcement around illegal working has been focused on the hospitality industry, as these types of casual part-time jobs are very attractive to those with little experience and without the correct paperwork. Hospitality businesses, whatever their size, should assess their compliance with right-to-work regulations now, to minimise the chances of inadvertently employing an illegal worker.

Right to Work Compliance To-Do List

  • Be prepared for surprise inspections – make sure you have escalation policies and processes in place for any communications received from the Home Office or any unannounced site visits. Front-of-house staff should be trained on how to respond during an unannounced visit, to minimise impact on customers.
  • Review right-to-work processes – Policies and processes for right-to-work should be robust, and thorough checks should be carried out before someone starts work. There should also be ongoing tracking and monitoring of visa expiry dates for employees with time-limited visas.
  • Get your filing organised – Check your existing paperwork to make sure that the business has the correct documentation on file for all employees (both UK and non-UK nationals). This is the starting point for any Home Office inspection. If you are an accredited government sponsoring agency to bring workers into the UK, you will need more detailed paperwork so should make sure this is all filed carefully.
  • Delivery Workers and Similar – Take time to think about your business’s approach to checking right-to-work evidence for those who are not direct employees, such as self-employed delivery riders or drivers. Student visa holders, for example, are not permitted to undertake self-employment.
  • Training – make time for regular training for staff responsible for conducting right-to-work checks in the UK to keep their knowledge up to date.

Avoid the Bad Publicity

Employers facing penalties are publicly named on the Home Office website and such cases are routinely covered in the local press and online. Failing to keep up to date with your right to work responsibilities could easily mean the end of your business.