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Right to Work Checks

| Duncan & Toplis | 22 March 2019

All employers in the UK must conduct simple right to work checks, before an employee or worker starts work, in order to make sure that the individual in question is allowed to legally work in the UK.

The Home Office have provided businesses with detailed guidance as to how to carry out these checks, and if followed correctly, will provide the employer with a statutory defence, in the event that it is later found that the individual does not have a legal right to work in the UK.

The Home Office has issued new guidance on the 28 January 2019 which can be found on the gov.uk website, called “An Employer’s Guide to Right to Work Checks”.

The penalties for employing illegal workers, or workers with no right to work in the UK, is high with civil penalties of up to £20,000 for each illegal worker and in some more serious cases the courts can pursue a wide range of other sanctions including criminal convictions, unlimited fines and seizure of earnings. It is a criminal offence if an individual knows or has reasonable cause to believe that they are employing an illegal worker.

Checks should be conducted for all new employees before they start work for you. If the new employee’s right to work documents show that their documents expire, a further check should be carried out shortly before their right to work ends, in order to ensure that they have got a continuation.

How to carry out a right to work check

There are 4 steps to conducting a manual right to work check. These are:


Collect original versions of one or more of the acceptable documents* from the individual.


Check the documents validity in the presence of the holder.


Take a clear copy [scan or photocopy] of the original documents and record the date that the check was made, and who checked it. This can be written on the copy. Make sure when taking copies that you copy the whole of the document including the backs and fronts of any biometric cards and that serial numbers are in full.


Retain the copies. These will be required in the event that an employer is required to evidence their checks.

There is a full list of acceptable documents in the new Home Office guidance, on page 31/32.

As part of the Home Office’s progression to facilitate online checking, from the 28th January 2019, employers may be able to carry out checks online via the gov.uk website. The service works by the employee first viewing their own Home Office right to work record which they can then share with the employer, by providing a share code. Again following the instructions to check and then retain evidence of that check is vital to ensure a statutory defence.

Currently this service is only available in certain circumstances and, if in doubt, the employer should fall back to the manual check process above.


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