Have you received a Civil Penalty for Employing Illegal Workers?
We can help you decide your next steps.
Civil penalties damage businesses and reputations. It only takes one illegal worker being employed for any amount of time for the Home Office to impose a £20,000 penalty on the owner of the business.
Civil penalties remain a substantial source of revenue for the Home Office, with both small and large businesses at risk of allegations of illegal working.
As well as the obligation to pay a substantial fine, a civil penalty may result in criminal prosecution against the owner, enforced debt action, a County Court judgment, Tier 2 Sponsor Licence revocation, adverse impact on the ability to obtain future credit, disqualification of company directors or the business being forced to cease trading.
The Home Office also publishes an annual list of all the names of UK businesses that have been issued with civil penalties. This can attract negative press coverage, impacting profit, credibility and reputation.
Challenging a Civil Penalty
Employers facing a civil penalty for illegal employment may be able to pursue an appeal. This can be to either lower the level of the original penalty, or to remove the penalty altogether. The level of the original penalty can however also be increased at the appeal stage.
The appeals process is complex and time sensitive. It takes careful and experienced assessment of the full circumstances, from the nature of the alleged breaches, the evidence being relied on and the conduct of Home Office enforcement officials during the investigation.
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 penalties on behalf of UK employers, helping to mitigate the financial, operational and reputational damage of being fined for employing workers illegally.
We offer a fixed fee assessment at the initial stage of the civil penalty process, enabling you to understand your options and determine which course of action will result in minimal financial loss for your business.
We are also highly experienced in identifying grounds for challenge where the Home Office has acted unlawfully in issuing the fine, for example when conducting an immigration investigation or site inspection (‘raid’) or when taking enforcement action.
What do I do if I have received a Civil Penalty?
Whichever option you proceed with, you have only 28 days to respond to the Home Office. This deadline is fixed and cannot be extended.
It is crucial at this stage to obtain early, specialised legal advice to understand the next steps available to you and which option is the best course of action for your situation.
Our UK immigration solicitors have extensive experience advising employers on the merits of their case and whether, on consideration of all the facts, there are grounds to challenge the fine or whether it makes better financial and commercial sense to pay the penalty.
There are a number of factors at play and employers should also be aware that should they decide to appeal a civil penalty, the Home Office has the right to issue an increased fine if the employer loses their appeal.
Stage 1 - Civil Penalty
The Home Office may conduct an unannounced site visit of your business premises after receiving an anonymous tip-off that illegal workers are employed on the premises. This tip-off could originate from a disgruntled employee or unhappy customer, and the Home Office is entitled to conduct a site visit without holding concrete evidence of illegal working taking place.
At the site visit, the Home Office will gather evidence of illegal working and then make a referral to the civil penalty compliance team.
On receipt of the referral and assessing the information, the civil penalty compliance team will issue an information request requesting the following information:
- Confirmation as to whether you are the employer of the workers identified. If this is not so, details will be requested of the business employing the identified workers.
- Confirmation as to whether right to work document checks have been carried out and when they were carried out.
- Confirmation as to whether reports were made of suspected illegal workers.
- Confirmation as to whether you employed the identified workers and when.
You will be given 10 days to return the completed information request response form and supporting documents.
The response to the information request plays a decisive role in the level of civil penalty issued and therefore instructing expert legal representation to prepare a detailed response is crucial at this stage.
The civil penalty compliance team will expect you to complete only the required information in the response form, and does not give you the opportunity to argue against the allegations.
We advise that representations providing a detailed defence against each allegation be submitted alongside the response form.
Stage 2 - Civil Penalty
On receipt of the response to the information request, the civil penalty compliance team consider four criteria when determining the level of civil penalty to issue.
The civil penalty compliance team may decide to issue a formal warning notice (with no penalty) or a reduced civil penalty if they are satisfied that successful mitigation has taken place as a result of the information provided in the response.
Civil penalties are issued by the civil penalty compliance team. You will have 28 days to make full payment, set up an instalment plan, or object to the penalty.
If you have not been found to be employing illegal workers within the last three years, you may be provided with the fast payment option in your civil penalty notice which entitles you to a 30% reduction in the penalty if payment is made in full within 21 days of the civil penalty notice issue date.
As the owner of a business, you will need to decide whether it is worth outlaying the costs on instructing legal representation to object to the civil penalty or whether you should pay the penalty.
This decision will depend on whether there are strong grounds to object to the allegations in the civil penalty notice, which will result in the penalty being reduced.
Do Not Delay and Contact DavidsonMorris Today
DavidsonMorris provides a fixed fee assessment at Stage 1 and Stage 2 of the Civil Penalty process, enabling you to determine which option will result in minimal financial loss for your business. If you have received an information request or civil penalty, contact us.