By Daniel Hunter

Businesses in the UK were fined a collective £24 million for employing illegal migrant workers in 2014, a 75% rise on 2013, according to employment outsourcing firm Parasol.

Figures obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request show that the gross value of civil penalties issued between January and December 2014 was £24,652,500.

That’s compared to the £14,107,750 recouped by the Home Office in 2013. The 2012 total was £10,775,500. The increase comes after the maximum civil penalty was doubled from £10,000 to £20,000 per illegal worker in May 2014.

The figures also revealed that 2,262 civil penalties were issued to employers of illegal workers in the UK last year. That represents a 24% increase on the 2013 calendar year figure of 1,822.

Parasol managing director Derek Kelly said: “These figures underline the growing cost to UK PLC of illegal working, and suggest that the recent increase in the maximum fine has already made an impact.

“Failure to carry out the proper checks when hiring foreign nationals is a problem that persists amongst employers. More than ever, it’s vital that hirers conduct due diligence during the recruitment process.”

The Immigration Act 2014 made two amendments to the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 — putting in place a ‘sequential’ objection and appeals process designed to aid the recovery of civil penalty debts in the courts.

However, the majority of recent changes to the civil penalty scheme came via secondary legislation that amended the Orders and Codes of Practice.

As well as the increase in the maximum fine, document checks were simplified and the methodology for calculating penalties was updated.

A Home Office immigration enforcement team spokesperson said: “The legislative changes to civil penalties are part of a wider package of reform to the way in which we prevent illegal working.

“This includes significantly increased operational enforcement activity, reform of the way in which we administer civil penalties, and reform of the way in which we recover unpaid penalties administratively.”

The spokesperson said the reforms would “ensure there are real and enforced consequences for employers who repeatedly exploit illegal workers".