RTW Penalties – Home Office ups the ante

10 January 2024

The crack down on illegal working in the UK continues apace into 2024. Regionally we are seeing an increase in activity in the North East generally and disturbing reports of several offences being uncovered in the Yorkshire area in particular.

As part of their armoury, the Home Office will shortly be increasing the fine for any breach of regulation. Currently the maximum civil fine is £20,000 per individual lacking the right to work in the UK but from 22nd January this will increase to a whopping £60,000 per illegal worker. The only crumb of comfort is that, for a first-time offender, the fine would be limited to a mere £45,000 per illegal worker!

So what do you need to do to protect yourself from these risks?

Employers in the UK are mandated to prevent illegal working through the performance of necessary checks and failure to comply with these obligations results in substantial fines. While most employers are familiar with 'right to work' checks, they must also undertake follow-up checks for workers with a time-limited right to live and work in the UK.

So, to protect yourself you need to establish a “statutory excuse” by conducting  proper and compliant right to work checks which involve checking original documentation in line with Home Office Guidance, conducting checks online using the employee's share code, or using identity document validation technology for British and Irish Citizens. Documents must be properly retained and relevant dates recorded.

Having completed these initial checks, in order to retain your “statutory excuse” you will also need to complete follow-up right to work checks on individuals with a time-limited right to work in the UK. And should any oversights be discovered, you can reduce fines by reporting breaches to the Home Office, cooperating with investigations, having an effective right to work check system, and paying fines early (applicable to first-time breaches only).

The Home Office has recently introduced a draft code of practice on preventing illegal working: Right to Work Scheme for employers', which outlines how civil penalties will be administered and calculated. The increased civil fines in the draft code underscore the government's seriousness about employer obligations to prevent illegal working. Higher fines are imposed on employers who neglect proper right to work checks or fail to treat an employee's right to work as an ongoing obligation.

Employers cannot defer this obligation to third-party providers, and they remain liable for conducting checks independently, even with assistance from third parties. Understanding these obligations is paramount for employers.

Needless to say, should any problems be encountered then seeking legal advice is crucial when there's suspicion of illegal working and uncertainty about proactive steps.

At Kelburn Recruitment we supply volume production workers on temporary contracts, which not only provides great flexibility for our Clients but also places the burden of RTW checks (and the associated risks) on our shoulders, not yours, leaving you free to get on with the day job and sleep well at night. Feel free to call or message us for a no obligation quotation on 0191 261 5135 or info@kelburn.com

Further useful information can be found at:

  • Comprehensive guidance for employers on right to work checks:


It’s a lengthy guide so simply ctrl and F to search for the relevant words applicable to your search.

  • If you need help carrying out a right to work check you should call the Employer Enquiry helpline:

Telephone: 0300 790 6268 - Monday to Thursday, 9am to 4:45pm Friday 9am to 4:30pm.

  • Here is how to report any concerns about suspected immigration crime:  


  • Information to assist with the detection of false documents and imposters, should you have any concerns:


  • PRADO – an European Union website which shows how genuine passports, ID cards and driving licences should look, and examples of forgery detection points:


It really helps when you are looking at a document for the first time.

  • Finally, if you wish to obtain information about online training on right to work checks for employers, please contact the Immigration Enforcement Checking and Advice Service training team at: