If you are an absolute Immigration geek like me, you will enjoy watching reality tv shows like “Nothing to Declare”, “UK Border Force” and “Passport Control”. So it came as no surprise to hear the Border Agency (the law enforcement command within the Home Office) had raided yet another curry house over the weekend in order to check that all of its staff had the proper right to work documentation and to remove anyone found  working in the UK illegally.  

However, in this particular restaurant in Bournemouth the UKIP party leader candidate Lisa Duffy was having dinner with her staff when the Border Force popped in! Apparently no action was taken against the curry house, which had completed its pre-employment checks. However, a spokesman for Ms Duffy described seeing one man run off: "Watching our chef running away into the night, his apron flapping in the wind, was a surreal moment”. 

With recent emphasis on the new Immigration Act 2016, which includes increased penalties for employers who knowingly appoint an illegal worker, it’s important for businesses to have robust procedures in place for carrying out right to work checks and that these are distributed to all staff who are involved in any aspect of recruitment or management. Employers should also ensure that their immigration and right to work policies are up to date, effective and properly utilised.  

The fear of receiving a Civil Penalty fine of up to £20,000 per illegal worker is now secondary to new harsher criminal sanctions for employers and the worker. Since 12 July 2016, the offence is committed if the employer knows, or has “reasonable cause to believe”, that a person is working illegally. This is a much lower legal threshold and comes with an increase in the maximum penalty, now up to five years’ imprisonment compared with the previous two.  

For the illegal worker, the Act creates a new criminal offence and any work without appropriate permission could earn them up to six months’ imprisonment, a fine or both, and they could even have their earnings seized. 

It’s therefore not surprising to hear that the chef legged it.