UK: Campaign against Illegal Working

In October 2015, Immigration Minister James Brokenshire announced a compliance campaign, Operation Magnify, to prevent illegal working in the United Kingdom. This campaign is understood to be a nationwide campaign which specifically targets organisations in the construction industry to ensure employers within this sector are conducting suitable checks on their employee”s right to work in the UK.

Following the success of Operation Magnify and consultation with key figures in the construction industry, the Home Office have further announced that from May 2016 it will be continuing to prevent illegal working through the Operation Magnify campaign.

Preventing Illegal working

The legislation on preventing illegal working is set out in the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 (The 2006 Act). The Act states that an employer may be liable for a civil penalty of £20,000 per illegal worker if they employ someone who does not have the right to work in the UK. This places a significant duty of responsibility on employers to prevent illegal working. The responsibility includes suitable checks are made on an employee before employing them to ensure they are lawfully allowed to work.

Employers can obtain a statutory excuse, evidence of a person”s right to work, by checking a potential employee”s documents to ensure that their employees are allowed to work in the UK. A correctly obtained statutory excuse will protect an employer from a potential civil penalty being imposed for employing illegal workers.

Failure to comply with the law on preventing illegal working in the UK comes with many consequences to employers, including:

  • Tougher penalties and sanctions on those employers who exploit illegal migrants for their own gain
  • Prosecuting employers who “turn a blind eye” to employing illegal migrants, and possible custodial sentences
  • Potential Closure of businesses that “continue to flout the law” through the use of illegal labour

Employees found to be illegally working in the UK will also be deemed to be committing a criminal offence and could face having any income earnt via illegal working seized. Such workers will also be removed from the UK with a potential ban from re-entering within a specified period.

What can employers do?

Employers are eagerly advised to ensure that they follow the Home Office Guidelines on preventing illegal working in the UK.

Our consultants specialise in Right to Work and Preventing Illegal working in the UK, offering Training Sessions tailored to employer”s needs, along with Mock Compliance Audits, enabling us to assess an employer”s personnel records to ensure compliance with Right to Work requirements.

If you would like further information on our Right to Work and Preventing Illegal working services please email us at

Contact Newland Chase