Businesses and organisations of all sizes and in all sectors are required to make sure their employees and potential employees have the right to work in the UK.
This is a legal duty, and to fulfil it employers must carry out right to work checks on all potential employees before they start work.
What is a right to work check?
A right to work check involves checking a document, held by a potential employee, that proves they have the right to work in the UK.
You must carry out this check before the person’s employment starts (not on their first day) to make sure they are legally allowed to do the work in question.
You must also undertake a follow-up check if an employee’s right to work in the UK is time-limited.
Why should I check that my employees have a right to work in the UK?
All employers have a duty to help prevent illegal working. Right to work checks make it more difficult for people to work illegally, and easier for employers to ensure their employees are allowed to do the work in question.
It’s illegal to employ somebody who doesn’t have the right to work in the UK. If the government finds one of your employees to be working illegally, and you’ve failed to carry out a right to work check, you will be liable for a civil penalty.
If you know or have reasonable cause to believe you’re employing someone who doesn’t have the right to work in the UK, you will be committing a criminal offence and may face up to five years’ imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.
Who should I conduct checks on?
You are required to conduct checks on all potential employees.
You should never make assumptions about a person’s right to work in the UK based on their nationality, ethnicity, or accent, or the length of time they’ve lived in the UK. You should treat all potential employees in exactly the same way.
To help you avoid unlawful discrimination, refer to the government’s publication: ‘Code of practice for employers: Avoiding unlawful discrimination while preventing illegal working’.
What do right to work checks involve?
A right to work check involves three key steps:
- Obtain the person’s original documents
- Check the validity of the documents with the holder present
- Make and retain a clear copy, and record the date of the check
What documents can I accept?
The documents you can accept are set out in two lists: List A and List B. These lists can be found in the government’s guide to acceptable right to work documents.
List A details the documents you can accept for a person who has a permanent right to work in the UK, while List B details the documents you can accept for a person with a temporary right to work.
How do I check the documents?
You must check the validity of the documents in the presence of the holder. This can be done either in person or via a live video link, but in both cases you must be in physical possession of the original documents.
Check the following:
- Photographs and dates of birth are consistent with the person’s appearance, and across documents
- Expiry dates for permission to be in the UK have not passed
- Whether there are any work restrictions to determine if the person is allowed to do the type of work on offer
- The documents are genuine, have not been tampered with and belong to the holder
- The reasons for any difference in names across documents (e.g. original marriage certificate, divorce decree absolute, deed poll). You must also photocopy these supporting documents and retain a copy
You must then make a clear copy of every document you check and retain it securely. This can be either in hard copy or electronically, as long as it’s in a format which cannot be manually altered. You must also record the date on which you made the check.
You should retain these copies for two years after the person’s employment comes to an end, after which you must destroy them securely.
For more detailed information, see the government’s guide to right to work checks for employers.
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