Every employer in the UK has a responsibility to prevent illegal working.
It is unlawful to employ an individual who does not have the right to work in the UK or who is working in breach of their conditions of stay (visa) in the UK.
An employer needs to carry out certain checks before an individual commences employment, and also keep a record of the checks that have been carried out.
The checks must be carried out before an individual starts working for you.
To avoid any potential discrimination claims, you must undertake document checks for all workers, irrespective of whether you know them to be British.
For best practice, even if you are not the direct employer of your workers, for example, when engaging contractors, you should still know they have the correct permission to work for you.
Under the relevant legislation, an employer who employs illegal workers may be liable to a civil penalty or be committing a criminal offence.
A civil penalty of up to £20,000 per illegal worker may be imposed if an employer negligently employs someone without the right to undertake the work for which they are employed.
A criminal offence will be committed if an employer knowingly employs an individual who does not have the right to undertake the work for which they are employed. On summary conviction, an employer may receive an unlimited fine or imprisonment of up to 5 years or both.
An employer is excused from paying a civil penalty (known as the “statutory excuse”) if it can show that it has conducted right to work checks.
There are three types of right to work check:
These checks will provide employers with a statutory excuse against a civil penalty in the event of illegal working, provided they are carried out correctly.
Employers should be aware that it will not be possible to conduct an online right to work check in all circumstances, as not all individuals will have an immigration status that can be checked online. In circumstances where an online check is not possible, you should conduct the manual check or IDVT check.
From 6 April 2022, individuals with a Biometric Residence Card (BRC), Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) or Frontier Worker Permit (FWP) are required to evidence their right to work using the Home Office online service only. Employers will not be able to accept physical cards for the purposes of a right to work check.
Currently, the online service supports checks in respect of those who hold:
The first step is for the potential individual to view their Home Office right to work record, this is done using this LINK. The worker should then provide you with a ‘share code’ which they may share with you directly, or they may choose to send this to you via the service.
To check the individual's right to work details you will need to:
You must, in the presence of the individual or via video call:
Right to work checks can be achieved by undertaking a series of specified steps:
If the individual is subject to restrictions and/or the document they present has an expiry date, you must make a note of this date and undertake a new document check on or before the relevant date in the future. You must retain the documents during the course of each individuals’ employment and for two years after they have stopped working for you.
There is an online interactive tool which can be used to check which types of document give someone the right to work in the UK and what a right to work check involves for each of them (you can find this HERE). The employer must check the validity of the original documents and satisfy itself that the individual is the person named in them.
If you employ students, you need to check the working time restrictions on their visa and you will need to obtain a print-out of the semester timetable from their educational institution as some students are able to work fulltime during their holiday periods.
From 6 April 2022, employers can use Identity Document Validation Technology (IDVT) via the services of an IDSP to carry out right to work checks for British and Irish citizens who hold a valid passport (including Irish passport cards).
Employers will only have a statutory excuse if they reasonably believe that the IDSP has carried out their checks in accordance with the Home Office guidance.
Employers will need to follow these steps when carrying out a right to work check using an IDSP:
An employer needs to recheck the right to work of individuals with time limited permission to work in the UK.
On the date the individual’s permission expires, the employer should be reasonably satisfied that the individual:
In these cases, the statutory excuse will continue from the expiry date of your employee’s permission for a further period of up to 28 days to enable the employer to obtain a positive right to work check. This ‘grace period’ does not apply to checks carried out before the individual’s employment has commenced.