Immigration Act 2016
The Immigration Bill 2015 has now received Royal Assent and is officially known as the Immigration Act 2016. Although the Act is now law, the majority of the measures will only take effect once regulations are made over the coming months.
The main HR/employment aspects are as follows:
• Power for the Secretary of State to introduce a skills levy on businesses bringing migrant labour into the UK, with the aim of incentivising employers to invest in settled workers, reduce reliance on imported labour and boost the skills of young people in the UK;
• For roles in the public sector, all customer-facing employees will have to possess fluent English;
• The introduction of a new Director of Labour Market Enforcement, to co-ordinate the main enforcement organisations to protect vulnerable workers; the newly named Gangmasters & Labour Abuse Authority (formerly the Gangmasters Licensing Authority), the Employment Standards Inspectorate & HMRC. This is further evidence of the Government’s ‘joined up’ approach in tackling exploitation in the labour market;
• A lowering of the threshold to extend the circumstances that could give rise to criminal prosecution where there is ‘reasonable cause to believe’ someone is employed illegally, which in theory, could cover a situation where an organisation has only carried out a partial rather than a full right to work document check. The potential prison sentence for this offence has also increased from two to five years. This reinforces the fact that regardless of size or industry sector, employers must carry out full right to work document checks in order to evidence the immigration status of each and every employee;
• New powers to close premises for up to 48 hours while officers investigate any right to work issues for employers who persistently flout the law;
• New powers to search premises and seize documents and/or devices to assist with determining civil penalty;
• A new criminal offence of ‘being an illegal worker’ which would allow employees’ wages to be confiscated under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
Regardless of your industry sector, the advent of this new legislation means it is even more important that organisations which employ staff can evidence the immigration status of each and every employee.
It is therefore vital that employers check all of their employees’ right to work in the UK. This should be a straightforward process of checking certain prescribed documents, keeping copies as per the prescriptive requirements, and conducting regular re-checks dependent upon the employee’s immigration status. Employers should therefore take this opportunity to review all of their records to ensure this has taken place and if not, this should be rectified immediately.
If you have any questions, please contact Beverley Smith