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Blog • 30.05.19

How to check if someone has the right to work in the UK

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When checking someone’s right to work in the UK, you’ll need to view valid documentation and make and save a copy of these. Failing to do so for everyone you employ is breaking the law, so you need to ensure it’s a routine part of your recruitment process.

Why is checking right to work important?

Under the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006, all businesses have a duty to prevent illegal working by carrying out document checks to confirm that a person has the right to work in the UK.

If a person has a restriction on the type of work they can do and/or the amount of hours they can work, you must not employ them in breach of these restrictions.

If you don’t do this for every employee who starts working for you, you’re breaking the law. And the penalties for doing so can be severe, including fines and prison sentences for the worst offenders.

Brexit, EU citizens and right to work checks

EU citizen’s will retain their right to work in the UK until at least 31st December 2020.

Beyond this date, they will need to have secured EU Settled Status in order to retain their right to continue working in the UK.

The EU settlement scheme is now fully open and employers should encourage any EU nationals they have working for them to apply if they have not done so already.

How to check someone’s right to work

From 28 January 2019 it’s been possible to carry out online right to work checks for certain individuals. These are people who hold:

  • a biometric residence permit;
  • a biometric residence card; or
  • status issued under the EU Settlement Scheme.

When an online check is not possible, you should conduct a manual check as follows:

1. Request documents

The identification you need to see depends on where the person is from and what their visa/residency status is.

The Home Office defines the documents which can be accepted in two comprehensive lists – List A and List B.

For most people, you’ll only need to see a valid document from List A which shows that the person has no restrictions on their stay. You’ll only need a document from List B if the documents in List A do not prove that your would-be employee has the right to work in the UK.

For EU Nationals, the only way you will be able to check their settled status post Brexit is via the online check mentioned above; there is no corresponding documentation that can be accepted as an alternative.

2. Check the documents for authenticity

You must check that the documents you have been provided with are authentic.

Of course, you aren’t a trained fraud expert, but you do need to take reasonable steps to make sure they aren’t fake. Start by ensuring you are looking at the original document – not a copy.

You’ll want to check:

  • that documents have not been tampered with (i.e. check that logos/holograms/photos are secure and that there is no evidence that they have been laid over another image).
  • that the documents haven’t expired or dates on visas or leave to remain documents haven’t expired.
  • that the photo looks like the person.
  • the date of birth on the document seems consistent with the employee’s age.
  • that any visa provided covers the type of work they’ll be doing.

If you’re ever in doubt, you should check what to look for and how to do so with the Home Office department UK Visas and Immigration.

3. Check if the person has the right to work in the UK

For most people wanting to work for you, checking that they have a valid passport either from the UK or other European Community country, or from another country with a valid Visa or Work permit stamp in it from the Home Office, will be sufficient.

Again, this is until the transition period to the EU Settlement Scheme is complete. Following this, EU nationals must be able to prove EU settled or pre-settled status via an online check.

If the visa or work permit stamp refers to any restrictions then you should look at one of the documents from List B, and check with that document whether or not this person has the right to do the job you want them to do.

This area can be confusing. If you’re in any doubt, it is best to check with UK Visas and Immigration.

4. Make a note of any restrictions

This might include visa expiry dates, or maximum hours which can be worked in a week.

Where there are visa expiry dates, it’s often best to place these employees on a fixed term contract due to the visa restrictions.

It’s also a good idea to set reminders in advance of visa expiry dates, so that they don’t catch you by surprise and you have time to check any applications your employees may have made to extend their visas.

5. Take a copy of documents

Take a copy of the front page and any page with the employee’s details on it. Also copy any pages with visas or right to work certificates. For any other documents copy all pages.

6. Note authenticity on the copies

The person checking the documents needs to add their own name and the date of checking.

Use wording like ‘I confirm that the document provided appears to be a true likeness to the person in question’ (if photo ID) or ‘I confirm this document is in date and appears to be genuine’.

7. Store the copy documents on the employee file

The last thing to do is to keep a copy on the employee’s personnel file. You’ll need to keep hold of them for two years after the employee leaves.

The content of this blog is for general information only. Please don’t rely on it as legal or other professional advice as that is not what we intend. You can find more detail on this in our Terms of Website Use. If you require professional advice, please get in touch.

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