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23 October 2023

Right to Work Checks + Immigration Raids

Immigration raids incite fear in migrant and migratised communities, while right to work guidance is causing confusion amongst employers. Through both our Hostile Office and Challenge the Checks campaigns, we are looking at how different aspects of legislation such as employment, digital and immigration law clash to create misery for migrant workers. 

The Government signalled an increase in immigration enforcement raids at the end of 2022 as part of its increasingly regressive stance on immigration. The Home Office established the UK’s first cross-Government ministerial taskforce on immigration enforcement which aims to reduce ‘illegal working’ and employment and “ensure only those eligible can work.” In August 2023, the Home Office announced that civil penalties for employers found to be employing workers without permission to work are to triple. The announcement signified the biggest rise in civil penalties since 2014, rising from £15,000 to £45,000 per worker and up to £60,000 for repeat breaches.

Since the start of 2018, around 5,000 penalties have been issued to employers totalling £88.4 million. In just the second quarter of 2023, 377 were issued totalling £5.6 million in value whilst in the first quarter of the year, civil penalties amounted to £6 million. Evidently, immigration raids on workplaces are a highly lucrative income stream for the Home Office. 

Source: Immigration Enforcement data: Q2 2023

Upon the announcement of the increase in civil penalties, the Home Office stated that in order to avoid a fine, the employer needs to carry out a right to work check and that it “takes only 5 minutes”. However, our Challenge the Checks research has found that right to work guidance is confusing, contradictory and in many cases, the checks simply do not work. For example, the guidance itself states “it will not be possible to conduct a Home Office online right-to-work check in all circumstances, as not all individuals will have an immigration status that can be checked online”. While those who obtained Indefinite Leave to Remain before November 2008 have no digital footprint. 

Right to work checks are complex and many employers don’t understand the rules. As a result, migrant workers are suffering. Through our Challenge the Checks campaign and Hostile Office campaign, we are committed to exposing the impact of the hostile environment in the workplace. We are raising awareness of the:

  • Impact of immigration raids on migrant and migratised communities
  • How immigration raids are affecting migrant and racialised businesses
  • Contradictions in the overly complex right to work guidance, civil penalties and the impact this is having on migrant workers
  • Technical issues with platforms such as share code error sharing, discrimination from facial recognition software and workers being asked to pay for them
  • Outsourcing of right to work services to third-party providers

Right to work checks are broken. Immigration raids are discriminatory. We are calling for right to work checks and raids to stop. If you are a worker who has experienced issues and want to tell your story, please email [email protected]