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Legal Q&A: what the new Immigration Act means for the pub industry

By Liam Coleman

- Last updated on GMT

Legal Q&A: what the new Immigration Act means for the pub industry

Related tags Crime

"It surprised me how draconian it is now," Georgina Porter from law firm Weightmans said when asked about the Immigration Act 2016. The act came into force two weeks ago and so the Publican's Morning Advertiser spoke to Porter to find out what landlords now need to do to make sure they are complying with the new regulations.

What's the 'take home' message regarding changes in the new act?

The penalties are much, much harsher than they were. It always used to be a criminal act if you were knowingly employing somebody illegal, but now it's much easier for that to be proven. There is now a requirement for them [employers] to know that their people are legal. Rather than thinking they're OK, employers have now got to know.

How much stricter are the sanctions now?

Before, if you knowingly employed somebody [illegally], that was a criminal offence that could result in up to two years' imprisonment. They've brought that up to five years' imprisonment now.

Because the sentences are much longer, you've actually got a good chance of being sent to prison. That was quite rare [before] because once you'd waited on remand; you would have probably just had a criminal record. Now because of the longer sentence, you've got a much higher chance of serving time.

What's the potential for fines?

The fines remain at £20,000 per [illegal] employee. However, fining [before the act] may have been on a scale; if you hadn't been fined before, you would have got away with a minor amount. Now a £10,000 fine will be quite normal as a first fine and there will be very few excuses you can use.

Which penalties specific to licensees are in the act?

It just means that they won't get their licence. If they're going to get a licence or get it renewed, these are looked at on a case-by-case basis. In other words, they will go back and check if the employer has any history with the UK border agency.

You will now have to show that your business is run in a proper manner. That's not just having no illegal workers, you will have to show that you do have a system in place for checking everybody that works for you.

The new act contains a potential 48-hour shutdown for businesses. Is that new?

That's entirely new. They'll be able to close premises where they suspect there are illegal staff working.

The classic way it will work will be a raid. They'll come in and ask to see the records of everybody employed there and how you check that these people are legal. If they have any doubt about that or they look at the records and they're incomplete, that is enough for them to suspect that you may have illegal workers. They can then shut the business down for 48 hours while they check that.

If a business has already had fines over the past two years or has ever failed to co-operate, those people will be targeted. Anybody who has had a civil penalty in the past should make sure that they're squeaky clean because they will be the first ones in line.

What would be your advice to an employer currently employing an illegal worker that is reading this?

The first thing to do is to make sure that they are compliant with all the checks. They will need a watertight filing system, so they know where everybody is and know that they have a legal right to work.

If they check and find somebody that they think is illegal, they must immediately check with the employer checking service​ to find out if they have any records. They'll then get a red, amber or green from the checking service.

If you're reading this and have any concerns at all, the first thing to do is carry out an audit to check you have documentation for all your workers regardless of nationality.

Related topics Legislation

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