Construction business owners who have received fines for breaching immigration rules, are being advised to seek urgent legal advice to check whether there may be grounds for an appeal.
The sector has been under the Home Office spotlight since the launch of Operation Magnify in 2015, which aims to root out illegal employment practices.
Construction companies are legally required to carry out checks on all employees to confirm their right to work in the UK and meet their immigration compliance duties.
If the Home Office discovers that the company has not carried out these checks, they can issue fines of up to £20,000 per illegal worker.
There is no cap on the number of fines that can be issued to any one employer, meaning that construction firms could face penalties of hundreds of thousands of pounds for non-compliance.
In the last quarter of 2017, over £11.5 million worth of fines were issued to UK businesses that failed to carry out the required checks, with 624 businesses fined and 990 illegal workers identified.
However, many employers are unware of their right to appeal these fines and small companies in particular, not only struggle to understand their compliance duties but may not know what steps to take if they disagree with the Home Office’s decision.
Samantha Randall, a Solicitor and employment law expert explained: “If your construction business has received notification of a fine you have a very limited window of 20 working days, to check the details of the alleged breach and decide whether you feel this is unfair.
“It is vital to seek prompt, specialist legal advice to determine if the breach has in fact occurred.
“It is important to note that the Home Office has to follow strict procedural rules and if they do not adhere to these, there are grounds to appeal their decision and have the fine cancelled.
“If the breach has occurred but there are circumstances which mean the level of the fine is disproportionate, this may also be grounds for an appeal.”
For more information on your duties, as an employer, to comply with ‘right to work in the UK’ rules, or for help and advice regarding a Home Office fine notification, please contact us.