Employment law updates: Fines raised for employment of undocumented workers and upcoming changes to be implemented for fire safety legislation

CIPD looks at UK employment law developments in August 2023 

Fines raised for firms found to be employing illegal migrants  

New fines are set to come into force in early 2024 for firms who are found to have repeatedly employed illegal migrants. Businesses who are found to have done so could face increased fines. The civil penalty was previously £15,000 for each illegal worker for the first offence, which will now rise to £45,000. For repeated breaches, the fines will now triple from £20,000 to £60,000.  

Since 2018, £74m has been issued in fines to employers for employing undocumented workers. Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick stated that ‘There is no excuse for not conducting the appropriate checks and those in breach will now face significantly tougher penalties.’ He also stated that the move would help deter perilous channel crossings by small boats. The procedure for right to work checks is not changing, therefore full checks must be carried out before any individual starts full-time, part-time, permanent, or temporary work, with equivalent right to rent checks for landlords to determine the eligibility of anyone they rent to.   

The Illegal Migration Act 2023 was approved in parliament last month, including provisions that those removed from the UK will be blocked from returning to work or seeking British citizenship in the future.   

There is currently no set date for these changes, but they are expected to come into force in early 2024.  

Upcoming changes to be implemented for fire safety legislation – Responsible Persons under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety.) Order 2005 

There will soon be an increase in fire safety obligations for employers, under the Responsible Persons under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety.) Order 2005 (FSO). The revised legislation will call for more detailed records of risk assessments, driven by the Building Safety Act 2022.  

Transparency and accountability is the priority, with ‘responsible persons’ recording their name and organisation, and fire safety arrangements must be carefully documented. Responsible persons must hold a UK-based address and maintain updated contact information that they share with other stakeholders. There will be heightened fines for those failing to abide by the new laws and the rules will require that any appointed fire risk assessor is suitably trained.  

These changes to fire safety will come into effect on 1 October 2023.    

Ban on using agency workers to cover strikes comes into effect - reversing the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses (Amendments) Regulations 2003 (reg 7)  

In 2023, following a challenge by thirteen trade unions, the High Court ruled that the regulations allowing the use of temporary workers to cover striking workers was unlawful. This ban has come into effect this month; so supplying agency workers to cover the duties of those on strike is now banned again as of 10 August 2023.  

The government may either appeal this decision or introduce new regulations after a proper consultation process. Employers who currently wish to use staff to cover those on strike can still reallocate staff internally or engage staff directly, rather than through an agency. 

Explore our resources on these subjects: 

Agency workers: Understanding the law 

Health and Safety at work 

Employing overseas workers in the UK 

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