Right to Work in the UK

Tuesday April 17, 2018

If you're putting people to work in your business, you've got a whole range of obligations to meet. You've got the National Minimum Wage to consider, DBS checks if they're dealing with vulnerable people or kids and a checklist of insurance, contractual and pension requirements. One thing in particular that might trip you up, though, is checking whether they're even allowed to work here in the first place. As an employer, it's up to you to make sure every person on your books is either a UK citizen or has permission to hold a job here.

Like a lot of legal obligations, you can expect more than a legislative slap on the wrist for messing this up. Employing an illegal worker can cost you up to £20,000 in penalties. Doing it deliberately can raise that cost by a literally unlimited amount – and even land you in prison for half a decade! If that sounds like something you'd prefer to avoid, here's the process for running Right to Work checks:

  1. You need to get hold of your employees' identity documents. Only the originals will do.
  2. You've got to check those documents are valid. The employee has to be there when you do this.
  3. You have to make copies of the documents and keep them safe. Make a record of the date you checked them.

Checking the documents properly means more than just running off a copy and slinging it in a drawer. You're looking for discrepancies that might mean they're fake or altered. Checking the names and dates of birth match across them all is a decent start. Obviously, you need to ensure that they actually belong to the employee as well.

When you make a copy, do it in a way that can't be changed, like a paper photocopy. You'll need to hang onto this stuff for a full 2 years after the employee stops working for you, so keep that in mind when you're filing it all away. If your employee can't show you proof of their right to work in the UK, you've got a decision to make. Assuming you're basically convinced there's a legitimate reason for this, you should check with the Home Office. Sometimes an outstanding appeal, review or application can gum up the paperworks, but you'll be able to get a “Positive Verification Notice” to protect you. Obviously, you should keep a tight grip on that document.

To their credit, the government does try to make Right to Work checks as simple as possible for UK employers. There are online interactive tools on their website to smooth out the process a little. If there's anything you have to do to be positive that your employees are working legally, you'll generally be able to find out about it by running through one of them. For instance, suppose your worker doesn't have a UK passport, or a Certificate of Registration or Naturalisation as a British citizen. That doesn't necessarily mean they can't work in the UK. They might, for instance, just be from the Isle of Man. In that case, the online tool tells you to get hold of either a birth or adoption certificate to confirm this, or an official letter from a government agency or former employer showing their name and National Insurance number.

It sounds like a massive headache – and it can be. However, the law is the law and you need to keep yourself on the right side of it. You can see the official guides on Right to Work checks here for more details – or talk to RIFT about any questions or worries you have.

Protect yourself, follow the rules and keep listening for more Voices from the RIFT.

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