Are you breaking the law? How to check right to work UK

Hand holding a UK passport

Spoiler: it’s not as simple as you think

Checking whether your employees and new hires have the right to work in the UK isn’t as simple as you might think.

If you don’t perform the right checks and are found to be employing an illegal worker, the punishment isn’t lenient. You could receive a civil penalty of up to £20,000 per illegal worker or even a criminal conviction.

But if you do perform the right checks, you are protected from the penalty. So it’s important that you know what you’re doing.

Where the confusion began…

From 30th March 2020 to 31st August 2021, the right to work check rules were relaxed in the UK.

For the first time, employers could check right to work digitally. We could simply ask for a photo or a scan of a new hire’s ID and be on our way to onboarding.

If this is how you’ve been running things even pre-Covid it’s completely understandable. The system for checking right to work is awkward at best and archaic, confusing and headache-inducing at worst.

But with the government cracking down on international workers post-Brexit, it’s important to be on top of the law in preparation for the return of the strict rules on 31st August 2021.

Update: the relaxed right to work checking rules have been extended until 5th April 2022

This means that the strict rules won’t be applicable for some time as you can still accept scanned copies of passports and other documents.

The government is also looking into the checks to make them easier for remote businesses, which is such a relief!

All you need to do is get a scanned copy of your job applicant’s right to work documents and check the likeness over a video call. If your applicant doesn’t have the right documentation you can use the government’s online portal with the process outlined below.

How do you conduct a right to work check in the UK?

Rules for April 2022

Right to work checks usually have to be done in person. Your employee or prospective hire needs to hand over their documents, which you then check and make physical copies of. You then have to write on the copy that you checked right to work with the date.

You then have to keep the copies either digitally as a pdf or jpeg file or in hard copy for two years after the employee leaves your company.

For those of us that have cancelled our leases and gone fully remote, checking right to work in person can be tricky. As I live on the other side of the country to my boss, checking my right to work status in person would be a bit of an ordeal.

But luckily for employees you’ve taken on since 30th March 2020, you don’t have to retroactively check their right to work. Phew!

You can perform right to work checks over video call but you have to check the documents in person. This means that your prospective hire would have to post you their passport and other documents and you would then return them after making copies, which is a bit of a hassle.

But if your prospective hire has a BNO permit, frontier workers permit, EU settled status, biometric residence card or permit, you can check their right to work status online by using their share code, which is much easier.

As of the end of June 2021, checking a Swiss or EEA passport and national identity card will no longer be enough. EEA and Swiss nationals without EU settled status will need a visa to live and work in the UK, which you can check online with their share code and date of birth.

When checking right to work online, it’s a good idea to make and keep a copy of your prospective worker’s profile page. Remember to write down the date that you completed the check too.

The relaxed right to work rules were much easier on businesses and we will certainly miss them.

If you need any extra help understanding these new rules, check out the government website or contact a professional.

If you’re looking for any help hiring talented international juniors into your organisation, we can help you keep things quick and simple.

About post author

Hi, I'm Daisy. I'm using my passion for writing to work with DigitalGrads on their content and social media campaigns.
Posted in The Hiring Times