The Immigration Bill will include the power to close businesses for up to 48 hours if they are suspected of employing illegal migrant workers, The Guardian reports.
In an attempt to create a “hostile environment” for illegal migrants in the UK, the Immigration Bill will confer powers on immigration officers to temporarily close businesses thought to be employing them “while they prove right-to-work checks have been conducted on staff.”
The current law will be amended to facilitate the prosecution of rogue businesses that intentionally employ illegal workers.
Employers will no longer be able to assert that they had no knowledge that a certain employee had no permission to work because they will be responsible for taking reasonable steps to check the immigration status of new recruits.
The Prime Minister, David Cameron, said the new legislation – which comes into force in the autumn – will introduce the offence of illegal working, which could be enforced by confiscating the wages of people guilty of it.
The immigration minister, James Brokenshire, said: “Through our new Immigration Bill, illegal workers will face the prospect of a prison term and rogue employers could have their businesses closed, have their licences removed or face prosecution if they continue to flout the law.”
Earlier in the week, the Home Office stated that the new offence would potentially carry a six-month term of imprisonment and an unlimited fine for those working illegally.
The Home Office added that the maximum sentence for employers found guilty of employing illegal workers will be increased from two to five years and “the worst offenders would then be placed under special measures, as directed by the court, which could lead to continued closure and compliance checks.”
Alp Mehmet of Migration Watch UK, which backs stricter immigration controls, is approaching the new measures with caution.
He said: “Let us hope that the authorities will not shy away from acting on the powers they are to be given, since their record on that front has not always been exemplary.”
Earlier this month, the government announced – under the Immigration Bill – that landlords in England will be expected to evict tenants who lose the right to live in the UK.
When asylum requests fail, landlords will be able to terminate tenancies, occasionally without a court order. They will also be required to check a migrant’s status before agreeing a lease.
Repeat offenders could face up to five years in prison.
Ministers are also contemplating subjecting minicab drivers and operators to new powers to remove trading licences from those not complying with immigration laws.
Immigration officers are said to be preparing to conduct a series of raids this autumn – targeting building sites, care home and cleaning contractors.