How Do You Check If Someone Is Eligible to Work in the UK?

Under employment laws in the UK, organisations looking to recruit new employees are obliged to conduct a right to work check to determine whether they are eligible to work in the UK legally. This usually involves an inspection of documents like passports and bank statements, along with other information like home addresses.

Of course, in order to work in the UK a person must provide original documents proving they are a British citizen, a citizen of the European Economic Area (EEA), or a Swiss national. Failing this, they will need to have a visa or work permit to work in the UK. This will obviously be checked by doing a passport inspection during the right to work check.

This is just one part of UK employer laws that ensure all organisations have a legal responsibility to ensure prospective or current members of staff are treated fairly and equally and are protected from discrimination. This means that all potential employees have equal opportunities in the application process.

If an organisation knowingly employs a person who does not have a legitimate claim to work in the UK or carry out the work assigned to them, under the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act of 2006 they may be liable to civil penalties. The act replaced the previous Asylum and Immigration Act of 1996 with provisions that ensured that employers face imprisonment, fines or both if a person “employs another person… who is disqualified from employment” or they have “reasonable cause” to believe that a prospective employee cannot work legally.

Under certain circumstances, organisations can file for a statutory excuse. However, according to the UK Home Office, organisations will be denied a statutory excuse if the establishment employs an individual and knows that the documents are fake, knows that the person is not allowed to perform the work or if the check is carried out by someone who is not an employee.

Conducting a Right to Work Check

To establish whether an individual has the right to work in the UK, a check must be carried out. According to the UK Home Office a right to work check involves three steps: obtain, check and copy.

During a check, the employee must provide evidence of their eligibility to work in the UK, and British citizens may do this by providing the following documents for inspection:

  • A valid passport (British citizen, EEA or Swiss)
  • A valid UK birth certificate
  • A valid national insurance number
  • A printed bank statement (showing bank location/address)

Foreign workers will need to present their respective identity cards, a visa to work long-term along with a work permit. Depending on the job, employees may also need a sponsorship license from their employer.

After requesting and receiving the documents, it is included under employer rights to check the originality of all received documents including consistencies of dates of birth across documents, the photo included on the ID and any signs of impersonation, as well as any evidence of tampering.

Once all the documents have been verified, the business must keep clear photocopies of passports and any other certifications of identification that have the nationality, date of birth, biometric information and signature of the holder printed on them.

Employers are still liable if the check is carried out by third parties such as a recruitment agency, in addition to their own members of staff. Therefore, sole responsibility for checking eligibility of workers lies with the organisations who are recruiting.

All businesses should conduct right to work checks because if illegal workers are removed, it could cause damage to the brand’s reputation in the eyes of shareholders, investors and the public who use its services. Other areas will also be negatively affected, including “health and safety and safeguarding regulations, as well as the potential invalidation of… insurance”.

You can view our Right To Work online training course here.