How do I check an employee’s ‘Right to Work in the UK’?

If you’re an employer, then you need to check a person’s right to work in the UK when they are about to join your company (or on their first day).

While failure to comply with the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 means that employers can face penalties if they don’t do these checks, it’s amazing how many small and medium businesses either forget to do them, or just don’t bother 🙄

When it comes to the topic of ‘Right to Work’, this blog covers the basic information you need to know.

Ideal if you’re brand new to hiring staff, or you’re an established business and fear you may have skipped a crucial step 😱

THE BUCK STOPS WITH YOU

Yup, that’s right, as an employer, you’re 100% accountable for making sure your employees are legally allowed to work for you – in the UK.

There’s government legislation to guide employers. If you ignore it, or do a shoddy job of doing your checks, you could face a penalty of £20,000 per illegal worker.

And what’s more, if you knowingly employ somebody who doesn’t have the right to work in the UK, then you could spend five years in prison and be hit with an unlimited fine ⚖

Believe me when I say, it’s widely known that compliance checks are commonplace. So, you simply can’t afford to brush this one under the carpet!

WHEN TO DO THE CHECKS

‘Right to Work’ checks need to be done once you’ve made a job offer. In fact, they should form part of the job offer itself. In other words, your employment contract could state something like the following:

“Your offer of employment with us is subject to satisfactory checks, which must be completed within 30 days of your start date. If you fail to meet any of our requirements, the Company reserves the right to terminate your employment with the Company with immediate effect.”

This is certainly what I specify in the employment contract templates I supply to my clients 👌

WHY ‘RIGHT TO WORK’ CHECKS ARE SO IMPORTANT

The UK is a diverse country. It’s made up of people from all around the world 🌍 In fact, that’s what makes it such a great place to run a business from!

‘Right to Work’ legislation exists to protect everyone. Without it, illegal immigration is more prevalent, which puts a strain on UK infrastructure. It also means that businesses are unable to operate in a competitive market, because minimum wage laws are often broken.

More importantly, legislation also helps to safeguard illegal workers, who may have been forced to come to the UK to work and live in unacceptable conditions. According to the charity Anti-Slavery International, forced labour is the most common form of slavery in the UK😢

WHO YOU NEED TO CHECK 🔎

Every prospective employee needs to have a ‘Right to Work’ check. Even if they’ve never even left the UK!

By applying this rule to everyone, you avoid being discriminatory. Remember, if you treat somebody differently because of their race, colour, or nationality – you could end up in an employment tribunal having to pay out compensation for discrimination. That’s because, these are classed as ‘protective characteristics’ that cannot be discriminated against.

Now that the UK has left the European Union (EU), people from the EU member countries can no longer use their passports or national identity cards to validate their right to work in the UK.

This also applies to citizens from countries that are part of the EU single market – but aren’t EU members. This includes: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.

If you’ve employees from the EU single market that started working for you prior to 1 July 2021, there’s no need to do retrospective ‘Right to Work’ checks on them.

When it comes to Irish nationals, the law is different ☘ People from Ireland have unrestricted access to work in the UK. They can use their Irish passport, or another proof of identity.

DOCS YOU NEED TO CHECK 📑

The government has prescribed a list of ORIGINAL documents you need to get your hands on, that prove a person’s right to work in the UK. This is if you intend to do a manual or physical check.

There are THREE lists that specify what types of documents you need, depending on your prospective employee’s circumstances:

  1. List A is for those who have a permanent right to work in the UK
  2. List B number one is for those who have a temporary right to work in the UK (on a specified time limit)
  3. List B number two is for those who have a temporary right to work in the UK (for six months)

 
You can check out the lists here.  

As the world goes digital, the Home Office is issuing people with digital evidence of their immigration status that you can access online. This would be instead of doing a manual or physical check as I’ve just described above. For more on this, see my section below, called ‘Doing online checks’ 💻

WHAT TO DO WITH PROOF OF ID

Once you’ve got the relevant documents to hand, you need to do the following: 

  1. Check them super-carefully 🔎

Remember, the buck stops with you. So, make sure you’ve pored over the documents and checked that they’re genuine.

Are you happy the photograph represents the person you’re about to employ? Is the factual information correct? I.e. names and dates.

  1. Make copies and keep them safe 🔐

Make copies of the documents and write the following on them: ‘Certified to be a true copy of the original. This ‘Right to Work’ check was made on <insert date> by <insert name and signature>.

Then, store them safely 👍

📅 Don’t forget that if your employee’s ‘Right to Work’ expires after a certain date, make sure you check their documents again when the time comes. It’s worth putting this expiry date in your calendar NOW!

DOING ONLINE CHECKS

For some prospective employees, you can do an online ‘Right to Work’ check, instead of a manual or physical one (as described above ☝). You do that here.

You just need their date of birth and their ‘Right to Work’ share code (that they will need to give you. If they don’t have this, you can direct them here.).

The majority of EU single market citizens can now be checked this way.

In the main, you can do this for most prospective employees who have the following forms of ID:

✔A biometric residence permit

✔A biometric residence card

✔Status issued under the EU Settlement Scheme

✔Status issued under the points-based immigration system

✔A British National Overseas (BNO) visa

✔Frontier workers permit


OUTSOURCE IT ALL
👌

GOV.UK has loads of information on how to perform ‘Right to Work’ checks.

But, if you want a HR pro to take care of it all for you, please book a FREE 30-min consultation with me to see how I might be able to help 📲

My tip 💡Remember, during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, temporary measures were set up to allow employers to do virtual ‘Right to Work’ checks. This was only available from 30 March 2020 until 31 August 2021.

TO SUM THINGS UP THEN

⚠If you’re an employer, you’re accountable for making sure your staff are legally allowed to work in the UK

⚖Failing to do this can result in a hefty fine and even a custodial sentence

⏰‘Right to Work’ checks should be done once you’ve made an offer of employment

👍They’re super-important to create a level playing field for UK businesses. And, to prevent illegal immigration and the hardship that comes with that

🙅Don’t discriminate. ‘Right to Work’ checks need to be done for every employee you hire

📑The government has prescribed the documents you need to ask for, check, and make copies of

💻Online checks can also be done, depending on your new hire’s personal circumstances

🤔 ‘Right to Work’ checks are a legal necessity for all UK employers. But, if you’re too busy to do them, why not outsource them to me?