Foreign Workers

Right to Work Checks

Right to work checks

What are right-to-work checks?

Knowing and understanding the right-to-work checks is vital for an employer.  UK nationals are subject to the same checks as any other nationality.  These checks are a legal requirement.  Failure to carry them out properly can result in serious consequences for the employer and the employee.

Employers must carry out right-to-work checks to ensure all employees are legally allowed to work. These checks are designed to prevent illegal working.

To carry out these checks, employers must obtain and examine specific documents from their employees.  The documents required can vary depending on the employee’s nationality and immigration status.

The consequences of not carrying out right-to-work checks

Failing to carry out right-to-work checks can have serious consequences for the employer and the employee. If an employer is found to have employed someone not legally allowed to work in the UK, they could face a penalty of up to £20,000 per illegal worker.

If authorities find that employers are employing illegal workers, it could damage their reputation in addition to financial penalties. This could lead to negative publicity, loss of business and difficulty recruiting future staff.

It is not enough to check an employee’s right to work; you must retain a copy of the documents you checked for each person.

How to check

The documents

There are various documents that an individual can provide to demonstrate their right to work in the UK. The documents required can vary depending on the individual’s nationality and immigration status. Below are some examples of the types of documents that can be accepted (a full list can be found here):

  1. UK Passport: A British passport holder automatically has the right to work in the UK; this can be a current or expired passport.  You can also accept an Irish passport on the same basis.
  2. A current passport endorsed to show that the holder is exempt from immigration control and allowed to:
    1. stay indefinitely in the UK; and/or
    2. has the right of abode in the UK; and/or
    3. has no time limit on their stay in the UK.
  3. A birth or adoption certificate issued in the UK, with an official document giving the person’s permanent National Insurance number and their name issued by a government agency or a previous employer.
  4. A Positive Verification Notice (provided by the Home Office Employer Checking Service). Be sure to check expiry dates on the notice and keep a copy for records.
  5. Biometric Residence Permit (BRP): A BRP is a secure card that provides evidence of an individual’s immigration status and entitlements in the UK, including their right to work.

It is important to note that the documents provided must be original, not photocopies. You must also check that the documents are valid and belong to the individual presenting them. If there is any doubt, employers can use the government’s online checking service to verify an individual’s right to work in the UK.

Steps to take

To carry out right-to-work checks, employers must take the following steps:

  1. Obtain original versions of one or more of the above documents from the employee.
  1. Check the document to ensure it is valid and belongs to the employee.
  2. Check that the employee can do the type of work you are offering.
  3. Make a copy of the document and keep it on file. Keep it for two years after the employment ends.