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February 28 2024

Navigating New Waters: The Updated Civil Penalties for Employing Illegal Workers and What It Means for UK Employers

Quick Guide: What You Need to Do

Verify Right to Work: Use Share Codes for checking the current right to work status of potential hires.

Understand Share Codes: Obtain a basic understanding of Share Codes as digital confirmations of an individual's immigration status and work rights in the UK.

Stay Updated: Keep abreast of changes in legislation, particularly concerning civil penalties and employment verification requirements.

Document Verification: Ensure a meticulous approach to retaining copies of all right to work checks, whether through Share Code, manual, or digital routes.

Seek Support: Consider leveraging Verifile’s services to manage Right to Work compliance effectively.


In a move that has rippled across the UK job market, legislation enacted in February 2024 has significantly increased the stakes for employers. The maximum civil penalty for companies found employing illegal workers has surged to a staggering £60,000 per worker. This legislative change underscores the government's firm stance on illegal employment and its commitment to enforcing immigration laws more rigorously.

Understanding the Legislation

This legislative revision is not just a number change; it's a clear signal to employers about the importance of compliance in their hiring practices. With the penalty now doubled, the financial repercussions for non-compliance are more severe than ever. It's a wake-up call for businesses to scrutinize their employment verification processes and ensure they are beyond reproach.

In this context, it's worth noting the broader framework of this legislation, which aligns with the government's intensified efforts to combat illegal migration and employment. The Home Office has been clear about its strategy to deter illegal employment as a critical component of its immigration policy, aiming to create a fairer and more compliant job market.

The Share Code System: A Closer Look

In tandem with this legislative update, we seize the opportunity to delve into the nuances of the Share Code system — a pivotal tool in the employment verification process. 

What is a Share Code? A Share Code is a digital code provided by the UK government that allows employers to check a potential hire's right to work or rent status online.

Share Codes, which are accessible for a mere 90 days from their generation date, are critical for employers to verify the right to work status of their potential hires.

Recent Updates to Share Code Reports

Recent adjustments to how Share Code reports reflect a candidate's right to work, particularly for students, have made these documents even more crucial. Not every student visa holder is granted the same work rights, with some facing stringent restrictions. Employers must now pay closer attention to these reports to understand the specific conditions applied to each candidate, especially those on student visas contemplating a shift to Skilled Work or Graduate routes.

What Employers Need to Know

The recruitment landscape is fraught with pitfalls for the unwary. Employers must not only inquire about a candidate's right to work but also understand the type of visa and any associated restrictions. The Share Code report emerges as the first line of defence in ascertaining these details. However, it's the nuances—like the distinction between full-time permanent and part-time contracts—that demand careful consideration to navigate successfully.

Statutory Excuse: A Safety Net with Conditions

The concept of a "Statutory Excuse" offers employers a degree of protection against penalties, but it comes with its own set of strict requirements. From retaining clear copies of online right to work checks to ensuring all manual and digital checks are meticulously recorded, the pathway to securing a statutory excuse is narrow and winding.

To bolster the statutory excuse process, the recent legislative changes emphasize the importance of adhering to prescribed right to work checks. Employers are encouraged to utilize the digital verification options provided by the government, which offer a more streamlined and secure method of compliance.

The Perils of Non-Compliance

The consequences of failing to adhere to these stringent verification processes are dire. Employers found lacking in their diligence, whether through inadequate checks or employing individuals clearly ineligible to work, will find themselves without a statutory excuse and facing hefty penalties.

It's critical to understand that these enhanced penalties are part of a larger government effort to ensure a compliant and secure employment landscape. By stiffening the penalties, the aim is to deter employers from neglecting their legal responsibilities, thereby reducing the incidence of illegal working in the UK.

Conclusion: The Path Forward

In this ever-evolving legal and regulatory landscape, the importance of staying informed and vigilant cannot be overstated. Navigating these changes requires a keen understanding of the law, a meticulous approach to employment verification, and a commitment to compliance. 

We recognise the immense pressure HR professionals face, balancing the demand for meticulous compliance with the realities of a busy, stressful work environment. The path forward may seem daunting, but you are not alone in navigating these waters. Here’s how to stay afloat:

Utilise ResourcesVerifile’s services are invaluable allies in ensuring compliance. They offer tools, guidance, and expertise to simplify the verification process.

Leverage Technology: Digital verification methods, including the Share Code system, streamline the right to work checks. Embrace these technologies to reduce manual workload and mitigate the risk of errors.

Educate Your Team: Regular training sessions on immigration laws and right to work checks can empower your HR team. Knowledge is a powerful tool in preventing non-compliance.

Prioritise Well-Being: Remember, taking care of your HR team’s well-being is just as important as compliance. Encourage a culture of support, open communication, and reasonable workloads to maintain morale and efficiency.

In closing, while the responsibilities may seem overwhelming, support systems and resources are in place to guide you through. By embracing these tools and fostering a supportive work environment, you can navigate these new legislative waters with confidence and compliance.