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Checking proof of the right to work in the UK

What is it and why is it needed?

Before you take somebody on to work for your organisation, you need to check that they are legally able to work in the UK.

You are breaking the law if you employ a person who does not have the right to work in the UK and you could be fined up to £10,000 for each illegal worker or face criminal prosecution.

What are your legal duties as an employer?

You have a duty to prevent illegal working by carrying out document checks to confirm if a person has the right to work in the UK.  You should check and keep copies of original, acceptable documents before someone starts working for you.

If there is a time limit on a person’s stay, you should carry out repeat checks at least once every 12 months.

If there is a restriction on the type of work a person can do, you must not employ them in breach of any restrictions.

How to carry out document checks

Ask us for the three step process involved in asking for and verifying documents from potential employees.  Following this checklist will ensure that you only employ people who are allowed to work.  You will also have an excuse against payment of a civil penalty if you are found employing an illegal worker.

What happens if the person does not have the right to work?

If you have carried out the document checks and find that the person you want to employ does not have the right to work, you should refuse to employ them and you have the right to withdraw an offer of work if you have already made an offer.

What happens if the person says I’m discriminating against them by checking their documents?

The best way to make sure that this doesn’t happen is to treat all job applicants in the same way and ask them all to present their documents before you employ them.  This means not making assumptions based on accents, background or appearance about whether a person can legally work in the UK or not.

Employing asylum seekers, refugees and those granted humanitarian protection

Asylum seekers do not normally have the right to work in the UK and may only be legally employed if the Borders Agency has lifted restrictions on them taking employment.  If they are allowed to work, they will have an Application Registration Card which states “Allowed to Work”, “Employment Permitted” or “Work Restricted”

If a refugee or someone granted humanitarian protection has been granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK, you must get positive confirmation of their right to work using the Border Agency’s Employer Checking Service.

Employer Checking Service

The Border Agency has an Employer Checking Service whose role it is to verify a person’s right to work in the UK where that person has:

  • An outstanding application or appeal with them which was made at the correct time;
  • Presented an Application Registration Card (ARC) which states that the holder is allowed to work; or
  • Presented a Certificate of Application issued to or for a family member of an EEA or Swiss national which states that the holder is allowed to work

To request confirmation of a person’s right to work you should complete a request form which can be found on the Borders Agency website.

Where can you get general help?

There is a Sponsors and Employers’ Helpline available on 0300 123 4699 between 9am and 5pm Mondays to Fridays.  They cannot give you very specific advice but they can answer general enquiries and give general advice on the law on preventing illegal working.

You can also ask us for information and guidance if you’re not sure what you need to do – call us on 01487 815720.

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