Ensure your workers are eligible to work in the UK

Penalties for employing illegal workers


A new immigration system applies to people arriving in the UK from 1 January 2021. EU citizens moving to the UK to work will need to get a visa in advance. Employers need a sponsor licence to hire most workers from outside the UK. See employing EU citizens in the UK.

You can be sent to jail for up to five years and receive an unlimited fine if you know or should have known that you employed someone who doesn't have the right to work in the UK.

Illegal workers: examples

Illegal workers include:

  • people that did not have leave (permission) to enter or remain in the UK
  • people whose leave to enter or remain in the UK has expired
  • students with expired visas, or students working more hours than they're allowed to
  • people on a visitor's visa
  • people doing certain types of work that is not listed on their visa
  • people with false or incorrect papers

Employing an illegal worker: penalties

If you are caught employing an illegal worker you will receive a 'referral notice' to let you know that:

  • your case is being considered
  • you may have to pay fine of up to £20,000 (also known as a civil penalty) for each illegal worker

However, you will not have to pay a fine if you can show you made the correct right to work checks.

You will be sent a 'civil penalty notice' if you are found liable and you will have 28 days to respond.

The penalty notice will give you your payment options and tell you what do next. It will also tell you how to appeal if you want to.

Your business's details may be published by Immigration Enforcement as a warning to other businesses not to employ illegal workers.

Penalties for employing illegal workers.

  • Home Office Employer Enquiries
    0300 123 5434