The message is getting through to Tayside and Fife businesses “illegality is only a shortcut to major fines”.
Scottish Conservative North east region MSP Bill Bowman was speaking after it emerged the number of illegal workers being discovered in the region has dropped significantly.
The latest figures were released by the Home Office in response to a freedom of information request from The Courier and cover the DD (Angus, Dundee, Tayport, Newport), PH (Perthshire) and KY (Fife) postcode areas.
Mr Bowman, said: “Many of the people identified by Border Force are exploited by unscrupulous business owners and are unaware of what has gone wrong.
“These are potential victims of modern slavery and forced or compulsory labour.
“It appears the message is getting through to local businesses that illegality is only a shortcut to major fines.”
There were five civil penalties imposed in the DD postcode area in 2016, seven in 2017 and just one in 2018.
In the KY postcode area the figures were six, four and one; while there was one, one and zero in the PH postcode area over the same period.
The number of illegal workers identified has gone down from five in 2016 in the DD postcode area and eight in 2017 to just one in 2018.
In the KY postcode area the figures were seven, six and one; while in the PH postcode area the tally was two, one and zero.
People can be sent to jail for five years and made to pay an unlimited fine if found guilty of employing someone they knew or had “reasonable cause to believe” did not have the right to work in the UK.
They can also be penalised for employing someone who does not have the right to work if they did not do the correct checks, or did not do them properly.
If this happens, people can get a referral notice and might have to pay a civil penalty of up to £20,000 for each illegal worker – double the previous £10,000 fine.
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “Illegal working undercuts honest employers, puts vulnerable migrants at risk of exploitation, cheats legitimate job seekers out of employment and defrauds the public purse.
“We continue to use our enforcement powers to tackle illegal working, and any employer who flouts the law can expect to received heavy penalties, and could even face prosecution.
“Employers must remember to carry out simple right to work checks before they employ staff.
“We launched an online checking service last year to make this easier and more secure.”