You can be sent to jail for 5 years and pay an unlimited fine if you’re found guilty of employing someone who you knew or had ‘reasonable cause to believe’ didn’t have the right to work in the UK.

This includes, for example, if you had any reason to believe that:

  • they didn’t have leave (permission) to enter or remain in the UK
  • their leave had expired
  • they weren’t allowed to do certain types of work
  • their papers were incorrect or false

Check your employees have the right to work in the UK and make sure their documents are valid.

Check your employees properly

You can also be penalised if you employ someone who doesn’t have the right to work and you didn’t do the correct checks, or you didn’t do them properly.

If this happens, you might get a ‘referral notice’ to let you know your case is being considered and that you might have to pay a civil penalty (fine) of up to £20,000 for each illegal worker.

You’ll be sent a ‘civil penalty notice’ if you’re found liable and you’ll have 28 days to respond.

The notice will tell you how to pay, what to do next, and how to object to the decision.

Your business’s details may be published by Immigration Enforcement as a warning to other businesses not to employ illegal workers.

You won’t have to pay the civil penalty if you can show you made the correct ‘right to work’ checks.

Get help and advice

Read more about illegal working penalties.

You can also contact the helpline.

Sponsorship, Employer and Education helpline
Telephone: 0300 123 4699
Monday to Thursday, 9am to 5pm
Friday, 9am to 4:30pm
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