How to check someone’s right to work in the UK
In this article, we'll cover:
Why it’s important to check someone’s right to work in the UK
As an employer, you have a responsibility to prevent illegal working.
- You must check an applicant’s right to work in the UK before you employ them.
- You are also responsible for doing a follow-up check shortly before your employee’s right to work time is due to expire (if their visa has a time limit).
This means checking someone’s right to work in the UK and making sure their documents are valid.
If you don’t check someone’s right to work or fail to do the checks properly, you could face a civil penalty fine of up to £20,000 for each illegal worker.
Knowingly employing someone who doesn’t have the right to work in the UK, could result in a 5-year jail term and an unlimited fine.
Ways to check someone’s right to work in the UK
You can check someone’s right to work in the UK in one of three ways:
- An employer can check the applicant’s original right to work documents manually.
- Alternatively, you can check someone’s right to work online. This is if you have the applicant’s share code.
- The other option is to check an applicant’s right to work using an identity service provider that offers Identity Document Validation Technology (IDVT)
How to conduct a right to work check
Let’s run through how to conduct a right to work check for each of the three ways listed above.
1. Check an applicant’s documents manually
To check someone’s right to work manually, make sure the documents are valid, not expired, unless it’s a British or Irish passport. The documents must also be original – not copies.
- Check the documents are valid with the applicant present.
- Make and keep copies of the documents.
- Record the date you made the check.
What documents are acceptable?
You can find a full list of acceptable documents for conducting a manual right to work check here.
What to check?
When checking someone’s original documents, check they are genuine, they’ve not expired, the photos are consistent and match the applicant, the dates of birth are consistent, and the applicant has permission to do the type of work you’re offering.
Make sure photocopied documents are clear and that you’ve captured all the key information. Copies need to be kept for the duration of that person’s employment and for two years after their employment with you.
You must process people’s personal data in a responsible way. Read our guide to data protection laws.
2. Check an applicant’s right to work online using a share code
Biometric residence card (BRC), Biometric Residence Permit (BRP), and Frontier Worker Permit (FWP) holders are no longer accepted in physical form as a valid right to work check. To check an applicant’s right to work online, they will need to provide a share code.
How to check?
Once you’ve received the share code from your applicant, you will need to log in to the gov.uk service. Enter the share code and their date of birth.
What to check?
Check the photo on the online right to work check matches your applicant.
Clarify that the online check confirms the applicant has the right to work. Check for any restrictions or time-limited right to work.
Print the applicant’s profile page on the online check, or save it as a PDF. Store this securely and for two years after the applicant stops working for you.
3. Check an applicant’s right to work using an identity service provider (IDSP)
From April 2022, employers can use an IDSP to check someone’s right to work in the UK for British and Irish citizens who hold a valid passport.
You can find out more about this here, including details of certified IDSPs.
Do I check someone’s right to work if they have EU settlement status?
If someone has pre-settled or settled status from the EU Settlement Scheme, they automatically have the right to work in the UK.
These applicants will be able to provide you with a share code, which you can check online, to prove this.
However, if they proved their right to work before 1 July 2021, it does not need to be proved again.
Do I need to contact the Home Office to check right to work?
In some circumstances, you’ll need to use the Home Office’s Employer Checking Service (ECS) to check someone’s right to work. This could be because someone cannot show their documents or online immigration status.
How long does it take to check someone’s right to work?
Checking someone’s right to work in the UK is one of the things you must do before you employ someone. It can take anywhere from 5 to 20 working days.
What is the check right to work code?
A check right to work code is a share code that applicants can provide to employers to prove their right to work in the UK.
What documents are needed for a right to work check?
If you’re checking an applicant’s documents for a right to work check they must be original copies and valid (in date). A full list of acceptable documents can be found on the gov.uk site.
When should a right to work check be done?
A right to work check should be done before someone starts employment with you. And if the applicant has a time-limited right to work, you will also need to do a follow-up check before their right to work expires.
Do I have to check the right to work for self-employed workers?
You do not need to check the right to work for someone who is self-employed.
How do I hire a subcontractor?
Take a look at our guide for more information. You can also see the difference between labour-only subcontractors and bona-fide subcontractors.
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