If your business has received a Civil Penalty under the Immigration Act, it is important to seek legal advice early on the options open to you. Depending on the circumstances, it may be possible to negotiate a reduction in the amount you owe, or you may have grounds to mount a successful appeal to cancel the fine.
The Home Office also has the power to increase the level of the original penalty at the appeal stage – so it is important to proceed with an objection only where you are confident in the merit of your challenge following professional advice.
What is a Civil Penalty under the Immigration Act?
All UK employers must by law – under Section 15 of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 – ensure all employees have relevant permissions to work lawfully in the UK by conducting effective Right to Work checks. Through the civil penalty regime, the Home Office has powers to fine those employers that are in breach of the regulations.
Where businesses are found to be in breach of their immigration duties, a civil penalty for illegal employment may be served. Currently, the level of fine is up to £20,000 per breach, however, this will increase from the start of 2024, from £45,000 per illegal worker for a first breach and up to £60,000 for repeat breaches.
The Impact of a Civil Penalty Notice can be far-reaching
As well as the obligation to pay a hefty fine, a civil penalty for illegal employment may result in:
- Criminal prosecution
- Enforced debt action
- County Court judgment
- Sponsor Licence revocation
- Adverse impact on the ability to obtain future credit
- Disqualification of company directors
- Inclusion on the Home Office’s civil penalty offender list
- Bad press, reputational harm and a resulting hit on profits
- Business forced to cease trading
Objecting to a Civil Penalty for Illegal Employment
If your business has been served a civil penalty under the Immigration Act, you may wish to consider your options to challenge the fine, not least to limit the financial, operational and reputational impact.
The appeals process is, however, complex, and you have a limited amount of time to weigh up the pros and cons and make a decision based on the options open to you.
You’ve been issued a civil penalty – what do you do next?
If you have been served a civil penalty for illegal employment, you will have three options:
- Object against the civil penalty
- Accept the fine and request to the Home Office to set up a payment plan
- Accept the penalty and pay the fine in full
You must respond to the notice within the 28-day deadline. The Home Office is strict in enforcing this timeframe, and there is no option for an extension.
We can help
As a team of immigration lawyers and former Home Office employees, DavidsonMorris has an established reputation for leading successful appeals against civil penalty notices on behalf of UK businesses.
The approach you take should be dependent on your organisation’s circumstances and the level of the civil penalty notice you have received. We have the experience to advise you on the options open to you for appealing a civil penalty notice for illegal employment.
We provide a fixed-fee assessment at the preliminary penalty stage and if you have been served a civil penalty, enabling you to determine which option will result in minimal financial loss for your business. Contact us for specialist guidance.
Last updated: 9 August 2023