As a result of the Immigration Act 2016, new powers preventing illegal working in bars, pubs, restaurants and nightclubs (to name but a few) came into force last week.
Around 60% of all civil penalties for illegal working served in the UK in the year to February 2017 were issued in the retail, hotel, restaurant and leisure industry sectors. Many operators in these sectors of course hold premises licences.
What has changed?
Immigration checks will now form part of the application process when applying for Premises Licences and Personal Licences. Further, as of 6 April 2017, neither type of licence will be issued to anyone who doesn’t have permission to live or work in the United Kingdom. It will continue to be the responsibility of the licence-holder to remain compliant with the UK’s immigration laws. Where a licensed premises is found to be in breach of the legislation, there are various options open to the Licensing Authority. These include summary reviews, interim closure orders and review (revocation) proceedings.
While the checks may fall under the Prevention of Crime and Disorder licensing objective (there being offences where checks are failed), the Home Office will now actually be consulted by the Licensing Authority (in the same manner as authorities such as the police are currently) when making a decision as to whether or not to grant a Premises Licence. Similarly, the failure of a premises or person to comply with immigration laws can now be used as a ground for making a formal request that a Licensing Authority reviews the relevant licence.
Immigration officers will soon have the same powers as licensing enforcement officers and the police to allow them to enter premises in order to investigate immigration offences. Given the possible repercussions of falling foul of the legislation (and in light of the unpredictable nature of Licensing Authorities and their councillor-led Licensing Sub-Committees) operators will do well to ensure that they comply, or seek legal advice in the event of any doubt.
These changes to the law are in force now in England and Wales and will be followed later this year by Northern Ireland and Scotland.