By Daniel Hunter

Measures to toughen civil penalties against rogue businesses employing illegal migrants, while cutting red tape for legitimate employers, have been unveiled by the government.

These proposals are part of the government’s plans to make it more difficult for illegal migrants to live and work in the UK, and to take tougher action against the rogue employers who exploit them.

It is also intended to ensure that the country’s immigration policy is built into the benefits system, health system, housing system and the provision of services across government. The proposals outlined in today’s consultation will simplify and strengthen the current civil penalty scheme to prevent illegal working. The plans will form part of the Immigration Bill, being introduced later this year.

"This government is committed to taking action to effectively tackle illegal working. Illegal working encourages illegal immigration, it undercuts legitimate businesses by illegal cost-cutting activity, and is often associated with exploitative behaviour like tax evasion and harmful working conditions," Immigration Minister Mark Harper said.

"We will not allow the growth of a shadow economy for illegal migrants, so we are proposing to get tougher on employers who exploit illegal labour

"At the same time, we want to make it easier for legitimate businesses by reducing the administrative costs of complying with right to work checks."

Proposals being considered to toughen civil penalties for businesses employing illegal migrants are:

- an increase in the maximum penalty to £20,000 per illegal worker, targeted at those employers who repeatedly break the rules
- simplifying the way civil penalties are calculated
- simplifying the way unpaid penalties can be enforced in the civil courts
- measures to allow recovery of a civil penalty from directors and partners of limited liability businesses following failure to pay by the business.

At the same time, the government has unveiled a number of proposals to help legitimate businesses including:

- reducing the number of documents an employer needs to check to establish a right to work
- replacing annual follow-up checks for non-EEA nationals with ones to coincide with the expiry of permission to be in the country
- simplifying the operation of the scheme and the guidance for employers
helping prevent undercutting by rogue employers

The government’s consultation on these proposals will run for six weeks, until 20 August 2013. It follows two Home Office consultations that were launched on 3 July looking at reducing access to free NHS care and rented accommodation for illegal migrants.

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