When getting it wrong is a crime

Immigration has been high on the UK agenda, thanks to Brexit amongst other things, but in July of this year, employers felt the immigration noose tighten as maximum jail sentences for some immigration related offences were raised to 5 years.

This fact was relatively well publicised, so most employers are aware of it and are likely to take heed. However, there are some other employment matters that are equally severe in terms of their potential criminal penalties but employers are somewhat less aware of them.

If you’re an employer here are just some of the things we at Payplus think you might not be aware of:


While mothers generally have the upper hand when it comes to deciding when to return to work after the birth of their baby, there is a legal minimum leave requirement for employers to respect. In most cases, this legal requirement is two weeks after the birth, and in certain cases, it can be four weeks. The thing that many employers aren’t aware of is that, even if the employee wants to work during this period, it is a criminal offence to allow them to do so.

Criminal record checks

There are any number of reasons why an employer may have a desire to check up on the criminal record of an employee, however, there are certain situations whereby the official channels do not offer an option for doing so. This is because, in any role where it is not considered necessary, the official channel of the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) is not open to employers. In some cases, employers have been getting around this issue by insisting that employees make an enforced subject access request under the Data Protection Act 1998. If you are thinking of this as a solution; beware because it is now a criminal offence to do so.


Illegal working is high on most employers’ agendas and the vast majority are aware of the civil and criminal consequences of closing a blind eye to legislation. Starting its life as a law that focused on issues where employers ‘knowingly’ employed a person who didn’t have the appropriate permissions, the reach of this legislation has now gone further. The law now states that any employer who has ‘reasonable cause to believe’ that an employee should not be working due to immigration status, they could face potentially unlimited fines and custodial sentences of up to 5 years.

Auto enrolment

Auto enrolment is also a topical issue in business circles, with even the smallest of businesses now becoming involved. But what many business owners aren’t aware of is that it is a criminal offence for an employer to knowingly fail to comply with certain specific auto enrolment duties.


Redundancy is accepted by most employers as a complex area. However, what some employers don’t realise is that where they are planning on laying off more than 90 people in one place of work, there are significant legislative hoops to be jumped through. Failing to do so is a criminal offence, and once more an offence that comes with a potentially unlimited fine.

Minimum Wage

Although generally inflicted on persistent and, or serious offenders, criminal enforcement for national minimum wage offences covers everything from failure to pay it, not keeping the required records and even worse, falsifying records.

Working time

With people who are forced to work 60-70 hour weeks hitting the headlines on a regular basis, what many employers forget regarding working time is that it is a criminal offence not to take reasonable steps to make sure that workers stick to an average of 48 hours per week.


This one’s simpler. If an employer doesn’t provide employer’s liability insurance, they are operating outside of the law and are leaving themselves in the exposed situation of having committed a criminal offence.

While the body facing the long arm of the law will depend on the status of the business, both individuals and limited companies can potentially face criminal consequences for making employment faux pas. So the message is: be aware of what you need to know. If you’d like help to stay on the right side of the law, why not email us with your questions?


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