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Right to Work in the UK: Essential to get it right!

Employers must ensure that everyone they employ has the right to work in the UK and keep a record of these checks, regardless of an employee's nationality.

If the checks are not carried out or are carried out incorrectly, and it transpires that an employee does not have the right to work, the employer could be fined up to £20,000 per illegal worker by UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI).

So what checks must we carry out and how do we do it?

  • The checks must be carried out BEFORE the employee begins their employment and not upon their first day of employment. To avoid the employee having to come into the workplace and supply documents once they have accepted the role, the sensible approach would be to ask those being interviewed to bring along their right to work documents to the interview.
  • Different documents may be required depending on the nationality of the individual. A list of these documents, as well as full guidance on document checks can be found here: Document checks
  • The person checking the document must ideally be responsible for checking them for each interviewee/new employee.
  • The person checking the documents must ensure that they are genuine, original, unchanged, in date and belong to the person who has provided them.
  • The photographs across all documents must be checked and a true likeness to the interviewee. The date of birth should also be checked and the age of the individual must be in line with the approximate assumed age.
  • The documents must demonstrate that the interviewee is able to do the type of work that the company is offering.
  • Once the documents are checked, each photocopy must be certified by the person who has carried out the check. They must add their name and date upon which the documents were checked. This can be written straight on to the photocopied document(s).
  • Photocopies should be clear and complete.
  • For all those who have visas, follow-up checks must be made before the expiry of the current visa.
  • If the employee has a student visa, they can only work for a certain amount of hours per week – usually 20 or 10 – and full time out of term time. Employers must copy and retain details of the student's academic term and vacation times from the learning establishment in order to verify when it is that a student can work full time.
  • The information should be kept electronically and secured, and/or should be kept as a hard copy in a locked cupboard or filing cabinet. Only authorised individuals should have access to these files, such as HR or members of senior management with responsibility for HR.