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How to check someone’s right to work in the UK

Before employing someone to work in your trades business, it's crucial you check their right to work in the UK. Failing to do so, or failing to check properly, could result in a jail sentence or a hefty penalty.

What is a right to work check?

Before any potential employee starts work, all employers must carry out a right to work check.

This involves checking official documents to determine someone’s right to work in the UK. These can be a passport, immigration documents, or a share code.

To avoid potential discrimination, employers must complete a right to work check on all prospective employees before hiring.

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. Remember:

  • You must check an applicant’s right to work in the UK before you employ them
  • You are responsible for doing a follow-up check shortly before your employee’s right to work time expires (if their visa has a time limit)

This means checking right to work in the UK and making sure their documents are valid.

If you don’t, 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.

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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:

  1. An employer can check the applicant’s original right to work documents manually
  2. Alternatively, you can check someone’s right to work online. This is if you have the applicant’s share code
  3. The other option is to check an applicant’s right to work using an identity service provider that offers Identity Document Validation Technology (IDVT)

check right to work online

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, ensure the documents are valid and 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?

GOV.UK provides an employers’ guide to right to work checks. This includes a full list of acceptable documents for conducting a manual right to work check.

What to check?

When checking someone’s original documents, check that:

  • They are genuine
  • They’ve not expired
  • The photos are consistent and match the applicant
  • The dates of birth are consistent
  • The applicant has permission to do the type of work you’re offering

Also make sure photocopied documents are clear and that you’ve captured all the key information.

Copies must be kept for the duration of that person’s employment and two years after their employment with you.

You must process personal data in a responsible way. Read our guide to data protection laws for more information.

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.

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, 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.

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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 with valid passports.

Find out more about Digital identity document validation technology (IDVT), 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 a right to work check take?

Checking employee right to work in the UK can take anywhere from 5 to 20 working days.

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How to check someone’s right to work FAQs

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. However, you may choose to vet subcontractors based on potential associations.

Remember, as an employer, checking employee right to work is a legal requirement, so it’s crucial to follow these steps when hiring anyone. Not doing so can result in a hefty fine and even jail time, so following the correct procedure is vital.

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Content disclaimer: This content has been created for general information purposes and should not be taken as formal advice. Read our full disclaimer here.

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