Employers can now be prosecuted if they own “reasonable cause to believe” that they own employed an illegal migrant, meaning that an employer must now be capable to prove that it took reasonable steps to check that individual’s immigration status priorto employing them. Previously, an employer could only be prosecuted for “knowingly” employing an illegal worker.

The maximum sentence for an employer convicted of the fresh offence has been increased from two to five years, while existing civil penalties also remain in place.

Corporate immigration expert Joanne Hennessy of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said that the vary was a “significant” unit, which would likely widen the scope for the UK Home Office to pursue criminal as well as civil proceedings against those employing illegal migrants.

“Our corporate immigration team has seen an increase in illegal working enforcement activity over the endure year, frequently following intelligence provided from other bodies such as HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC),” she said.

“Given the current government’s objective of reducing net migration to the UK, these changes could lead to yet more aggressive enforcement of illegal working provisions and increase the risk of criminal liability for employers. The stakes are higher than ever and, therefore, it is vital that employers – particularly individuals involved in recruitment – are aware of their proper to toil checking obligations and own robust systems in place for carrying out checks on recruitment and monitoring the ongoing proper of migrants to be employed throughout the employment relationship,” she said.”

The 2016 Immigration Act was designed to further strengthen the immigration rules and build it more difficult for populace who own no proper to be in the UK to live or toil in the nation.

The fresh criminal offence for employers came into force on 12 July, along with increased powers for immigration officers to enter business premises to search for documents and to seize and retain evidence in relation to an offence. A fresh post of ‘Director of Labour Market Enforcement’ has also been created, who will be responsible for oversight of the worker exploitation legislation and its enforcement through the three main bodies responsible: the Gangmasters Licensing Authority; the Employment Standards Inspectorate; and HMRC.

A fresh criminal offence of illegal working is also now in force, with sentences of up to six months in prison and unlimited fines for anyone convicted of working while in the UK illegally. Those convicted may also own any wages paid to them while working illegally confiscated below the proceeds of crime laws.

The illegal working offences apply regardless of whether the worker is employed as an employee or as an apprentice; or below a contract to personally perform toil or services.