It's no secret that UK visa laws are changing. They are becoming stricter, and so employers must keep abreast of those changes. 

Are you are a business owner? If so, here is what you need to know about compliance with immigration laws and recruitment:

Know the penalties for breaking the law

There are stiff penalties for businesses not complying with immigration law. It's a criminal offence for employers to hire people that need but don't have permission to work in the UK.

If you get caught, as a business owner, you could face up to two years in prison and an unlimited fine! In the best-case scenario, you may only receive a hefty penalty.

In any event, it makes sense to do proper recruitment checks before hiring anyone in your firm.

How To Check A Job Applicant's Right To Work

The website gives clear guidance on how you should check a person's right to work in the UK. In a nutshell, you can check their original documents, or online if they've given you a 'share code'.

If you are checking original documents, the law says that you must:

  • Review the person's documents;
  • Check the validity of those documents with the applicant present;
  • Make and keep copies of each document, and note down the date you made those checks.

In some cases, the person applying for the job may not have their documents available. For those situations, you need to ask the Home Office to check the potential employee’s immigration employment status.

What to do if you hired someone that cannot legally work in the UK

Have you recently discovered that an employee you hired doesn't have permission to work in the UK? In such a situation, it's crucial that you respond the right way.

First of all, it's vital that you consider all the facts and options open to you before making a decision. The last thing you want to do is fire the individual concerned. Doing so may lead to claims of unfair dismissal or even race discrimination.

Let's assume that, as a responsible employer, you made all the necessary checks from the outset. And let's also bear in mind that you've got copies of all their documents.

Could it be that the person you hired falsified their documents somehow? Let's consider that you've had confirmation from the Home Office regarding their work status. The employee in question may have had their recruitment permission revoked, and so this might relate to a conduct issue.

Some reasons why an employee might lose their right to work status can also include:

  • You or your employee may have breached their immigration permission, resulting in it getting revoked;
  • You might have lost your tier 2 sponsor licence;
  • A TUPE transfer to an employer without a sponsor licence may have occurred.

What to do if an employee's permission to work is due to expire

If you have discovered an employee's visa is going to expire soon (or they have told you), what should you do?

The best thing is for employers to look into their options and work with the employee to find a solution. In some cases, the Home Office grants a 28-day grace period when a visa expires. During that time, the employee can still legally work for you.

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About the author 

James Rowland

James is the Commercial Director at Neathouse Partners and regularly writes articles surrounding issues in HR & Employment Law. Outside of the office, James is a keen Cricketer, playing in the Cheshire League for Nantwich CC. He also loves going to watch his football team, Crewe Alexandra. Feel free to connect with James on LinkedIn.