Government does not know which company member will be jailed for ‘knowingly employing illegal immigrants’ under new legislation

The government has admitted it does not know which member of a company found guilty of its newly revealed offence, ‘knowingly employing illegal immigrants’, will be expected to face the two-year jail term it carries.

Immigration minister Liam Byrne revealed the sentence last week in a consultation document aimed at cracking down on the employment of illegal foreign nationals.

It will be the first time the law has made a distinction between the deliberate hiring of illegal migrants and doing so accidentally.

But the Home Office told Personnel Today it had not yet decided who would go to prison if a company was found guilty.

“We welcome views during the consultation on that issue,” said a spokesman. “People will have their views on who will be targeted – we want to take those views on board before legislating.”

As well as a prison sentence, the new offence will carry an unlimited fine. Penalties of up to £10,000 per worker are proposed for “less than diligent” employers that fail to carry out visa checks on their staff.

Employer groups backed the crackdown, but said its success would rely on measures – such as a new checking service – to help them identify illegal workers.

John Cridland, CBI deputy director-general, said: “The burden on business will be reduced if the new employer’s checking service is good quality and if the new ID card system for migrants is effective.”

The European Commission last week also proposed new jail terms for those caught employing illegal immigrants.

The proposals

  • Tougher checks abroad

  • Compulsory ID cards for foreign nationals

  • Service allowing employers to check right of applicant to work

  • Firms sponsoring migrant workers

  • Tougher fines and punishments

  • More compliance staff

  • A public information campaign

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