Farm businesses that fail to comply with post-Brexit rules on employing migrant workers could face unlimited fines and prison sentences from 1 July.
The date marks the deadline for overseas workers to apply to live and work in the UK under the government’s EU Settlement Scheme.
Any business employing staff who cannot prove they hold pre-settled status, settled status or a Confirmation of Application (COA) form will be breaking the law.
Failure to comply can lead to fines of up to £20,000 for each worker, with an unlimited total amount, and sentences of up to five years in prison. As a further deterrent, the government has warned it will publicly expose the details of each farm that breaks the law.
Alec Herron of the charity Settled estimated there could be more than 100,000 workers in the UK without the necessary permission to remain in the UK.
Many of those would be farmworkers, Mr Herron said, and it was vital for employers to find out whether their staff complied.
Farmers must be able to prove every overseas employee and all new workers have the permission to work in the UK and that the correct checks have been made.
EU passports or identity cards are no longer valid proof of a right to work in the UK, according to government guidance.
Workers should hold settled or pre-settled status, or at least have a COA, which acts as proof their application to the EU Settlement Scheme was lodged before the 1 July deadline.
They must also be able to provide evidence of their date of birth and a Unique Share Code which they should have obtained online through the settlement process. Farmers can then use the code to see the applicant’s status on the government’s website. This will set out what type of work they are permitted to do and how long they can remain in the UK.