Nighat Sahi

Published 22 August 2023

Huge Increase in Right to Work Penalties

Earlier this month, the Home Office announced that right to work penalties for employers who allow migrants without lawful immigration status are going to be tripled as of next year (2024). Described as the biggest shake-up of the penalty system in nearly a decade, the Home Office will also be launching a consultation on further actions to deter licensed businesses from employing workers without lawful immigration status and fines for landlords who rent to lodgers without the Right to Rent have also been increased.

The increases were recommended by the Government’s immigration task force and are part of ongoing work by Immigration Enforcement officers. As a government announcement explained, it is all designed to “clamp down on illegal working which is a key part of the government’s approach to stopping the boats. This work tackles illegal migration by breaking the business model of criminal gangs who use the offer of black-market jobs as one way to draw people to the UK illegally.”

Right to work penalties for employing illegal workers

As an employer, you have a responsibility to prevent illegal working in the UK by ensuring that your employees have the Right to Work here.

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

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

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

Employers will be at risk of fines of £45,000 for each illegal worker for the first breach and £60,000 for each illegal worker for repeat breaches, where they have already been fined in the previous three years.

Penalties for landlords housing illegal tenants

Landlords must check that a tenant or lodger can legally rent their residential property. Landlords are also at risk of large penalties with possible fines of £5,000 per illegal tenant (an increase from £80) for a first breach and £10,000 for repeat breaches, where they have already been fined within the previous three years. If a landlord is found to have multiple illegal occupiers for the first time, they could face a fine of £10,000 per occupier (an increase from £1,000).

Increase in enforcement  

Since 2018, 4,000 civil penalties have been issued to employers and more than 230 have been issued to landlords as part of the ongoing clamp down. In June this year (2023), the Government announced that the Home Office had deployed over 300 immigration officers on over 150 enforcement visits in just one day to crack down on illegal working across the UK.  105 foreign nationals found working without the right to do so were arrested and over 40 were detained by the Home Office, pending their removal from the UK. Businesses visited included restaurants, car washes, nail bars, barber shops and convenience stores.

Since the Prime Minister set out his plan to stop the boats in December, arrests have now doubled since the same period last year.

There can be absolutely no doubt that as a landlord or employer, your Right to Work / Right to Rent checks must be compliant and watertight or you risk very considerable penalties and or prison. If you need advice about how to conduct Right to Work checks, or if you think an employee, tenant, or lodger may not have the Right to Work / Rent, then you should get in touch with us as soon as possible. We will also keep you informed of any further actions that are introduced. Please get in touch by calling on 020 3988 0170 or email us at

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