British companies found to be employing illegal migrant workers were fined more than £14m last year, a 31% increase on 2012, according to new figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

The information data obtained by employment services provider Parasol under the act shows that 1,822 civil penalty notices were issued to UK-based employers between January and December 2013.

This represents a 50% increase on the previous 12 months, when 1,216 penalties were imposed. The value of penalties issued – £14,107,750 – was up 31% on the £10,775,500 recouped by the Home Office in 2012.

Derek Kelly, managing director of Parasol, which carries out right-to-work checks on thousands of workers a year, says: “These findings illustrate the heightened level of scrutiny that employers are now under when it comes to illegal working.

“More than ever, it’s vital that companies carry out thorough checks and follow the correct procedures when hiring foreign nationals.

“With the maximum fine for employing an illegal worker due to double from £10k to £20k under the Immigration Bill, it seems likely that the cost to UK PLC will rise again in the coming years.”

Proposals to “strengthen and simplify” the civil penalty scheme were laid out in a public consultation last summer.

In addition to increasing the maximum civil penalty from £10k to £20k, the proposed Immigration Bill would alter both the nature of the document checks that employers must conduct, and the way in which fines are calculated.

The bill is currently making its way through Parliament.

Responding to Parasol’s information request, Shelley Gould of the Home Office’s civil penalty compliance team says: “The legislative changes to civil penalties are part of a wider package of reform to the way in which we prevent illegal working.

“This includes significantly increased operational enforcement activity, reform of the way in which we administer civil penalties, and reform of the way in which we recover unpaid penalties administratively to ensure that there are real and enforced consequences for employers who repeatedly exploit illegal workers.”