Sharp Surge in Fines for Employing Illegal Workers

UK fines for illegal workers sees sharp increase

The latest UK Government figures, show a substantial 3.8% increase in fines for employers found guilty of hiring illegal workers in the United Kingdom between January – March 2023 compared to the previous quarter.

Overall, businesses were fined £6,020,000 in Q1 2023 compared with £5,800,000 in Q4 2022. Penalties may increase even further following the announcement that civil penalties for employers are set to triple from the start of 2024.

Number of Penalties

In Q1 2023, a total of 346 penalties were issued, a slight increase from the 329 penalties recorded in Q4 2022. However, when comparing individual regions, a few areas experienced much larger increases, notably Wales and South West England, which saw an 34% rise in penalties issued and North East England, Yorkshire and Humberside which saw a 63% rise.

Number of Illegal Workers Found

Q1 2023 saw 509 illegal workers discovered, showcasing a minor increase from the 502 found in Q4 2022. Once again, North East England, Yorkshire and Humberside saw the largest increase with a rise of 62% compared with the previous quarter.

Value of Penalties Issued

The most striking statistic emerges in the value of penalties issued. Q1 2023 saw a staggering £220,000 increase in fines compared to Q4 2022, reaching a total of £6.02 million. This represents a significant 3.79% surge in penalties, underlining the intensified efforts to enforce compliance with employment and immigration regulations.

The statistics do show a stark difference between regions with London and South East England and the Midlands and Eastern England showing decreases in all activity.                            

Lessons to be learned for employers

Employers across the UK should heed this as a stern warning, highlighting the importance of rigorous compliance to avoid facing severe consequences in the future. While the data for Q2 2023 & Q3 2023, have not yet been released, we expect those figures to show an even sharper increase following information issued by the Home Office in August this year. In the statement, the Home Office confirms activity is at its highest level since 2019, up 50% compared to last year, and arrests have already overtaken that of 2022 as whole.

Businesses who follow the correct Government guidance when it comes to right to work checks, which includes using a certified IDSP, shouldn’t to be concerned, as they would have a statutory excuse should they unintentionally hire an illegal worker.

Future enforcement

Even after such a sharp increase in activity and fines, the UK Government is still set to increase the maximum limit for both employers. The civil penalty for employers will increase from £20,000 to £60,000 from 2024, the first increase in 10 years, in a bid to curb illegal immigration. By tripling the maximum penalty for employers, the Government hopes businesses who currently turn a blind eye to illegal immigration will think twice before supporting such schemes.

Data tables

 All Regions
Q1 2023Q4 2022Difference
Number of penalties346329+5.2%
Number of illegal workers found509502+1.4%
Value of penalties issued£6,020,000£5,800,000+3.8%