The Immigration Bill 2015/16 - A Heads Up for Employment Specialists.

The Immigration Bill 2015/16

The Immigration Bill 2015/16 had its First Reading in the House of Commons on 17 September 2015. Progress of the Bill and a copy of the text are found at http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2015-16/immigration.html.

The Bill extends to nearly140 pages and covers a number of areas in connection with immigration but, particularly relevant to employment specialists are Part 1 which (together with Schedules 1 & 2) deals with the labour market and illegal working and Part 7 which covers language requirements for public sector workers.

Key provisions

The Bill aims to tackle exploitation in the labour market by:

  • Providing a logical enforcement strategy to crack down on serious exploitation of workers by establishing a new Director of Labour Market enforcement who will oversee the relevant enforcement agencies
  • Making it a criminal offence to work illegally, seizing illegal workers’ earnings as the proceeds of crime under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. There will be a maximum custodial sentence of six months and/or fine.
  • Making it easier to prosecute employers who deliberately turn a blind eye to employing illegal workers, and making sanctions tougher. The existing criminal offence of knowingly employing an illegal migrant will be extended to apply to where an employer knows or has ‘reasonable cause to believe’ that a person is an illegal worker. Conviction on indictment for this offence will increase from two to five years. These powers will operate alongside and reinforce the existing system of heavy financial penalties for businesses that negligently employ illegal workers.
  • Creating powers to close businesses and apply special compliance measures to employers who continue to flout the law. Premises may be closed for up to 48 hours. The closure may be cancelled if the employer demonstrates that they have conducted right to work checks where illegal workers have been identified. Where they cannot, the next step is to place the business under special compliance requirements. This can include continued closure followed by re-opening subject to right to work checks.
  • Ensuring that licences for the sale of alcohol and late night refreshments are subject to compliance with immigration laws.

The Bill may limit the employment of overseas nationals

  • It proposes to give the Secretary of State the power to introduce an ‘immigration skills charge’ on employers who sponsor skilled workers from outside the EEA.
  • It also requires public authorities to ensure that public sector workers in customer-facing roles speak fluent English. Codes of Practice will be issued with which public authorities will be required to comply.

A moment’s analysis…

In the employment arena the Bill presents a number of technical clauses for advisors to get to grips with. Looking at the broader picture, most would agree that tackling labour market exploitation must be a positive for immigrants and British workers. However the Bill does blur the lines between the moral cause of labour protection and the hostile world of immigration enforcement. Such blurring may limit its effectiveness.

For more comprehensive information about employing foreign workers, please see our guides on Right to Work in the UK and Discrimination in Recruitment and Job Adverts

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