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Your guide to conducting right to work checks

According to the UK Visas and Immigration Enforcement Agency, over 3,000 penalties were issued to employers for hiring illegal workers in 2016, collectively generating fines of £50 million.

Unfortunately, we find it all too common at HR Alchemy that these checks are not completed when our clients are going through the recruitment process, with over 80% admitting to not doing the checks, and the majority unaware that it’s even a requirement to do so. The maximum fine for hiring illegal workers is £20,000 per worker, so even just one single fine could easily have a huge financial impact on your business, not to mention the negative PR if the news got out.

So, what are the checks, and why are they so important?

Making sure that your staff have a right to work in the UK is a core duty as an employer. It may take up additional time and resources, but it’s essential that these checks are completed for each member of staff, regardless of the industry you operate in, the type of employment contract you are offering or the size of your team.

Requesting proof to work in the UK should be a standard part of the recruitment process – whether it is asked at the initial application stage or in the interview stage – you must ensure that the question is asked and the checks are completed before you employ someone.

The process of checking a potential employee’s documents is made up of three really simple key steps:

Step 1. Obtain the person’s original documents, such as a UK/EU passport, birth or adoption certificate. If someone holds a British passport or a passport from an EU country, they automatically have the right to work in the UK and do not require any additional visa documentation. Of course, this will be subject to change after Brexit!

Step 2. Check the validity of the documents in the presence of the holder. Make sure to check that the document appears genuine, are in date and consistent with the information you have on the holder.

Step 3. Make and retain a clear copy of the documents, along with the date of the checks for your records. Failure to do this, and then sign and date them, will not pass the HMRC’s requirements and could face harsh fines, even if checks have been carried out.

Is it always my responsibility to perform the checks?

There are some small exceptions to the rules, which includes agency workers. If you have staff that are employed through an agency, the responsibility for the checks will lie with the agency, and not the employer. Similarly, if you have sub-contractors or any staff recruited directly through a supplier, the responsibility will fall with the third party supplier of the employee, not the company using the services.

Any other employee which doesn’t fit into these groups must have checks performed on them before employment commences.

What should I check?

Generally, an original passport or visa document should be checked, although there is a full list of accepted documents on the Home Office website. These must be the original documents and not photocopies. Check the expiry date of any document or residence permit, and if the visa has expired, the person may no longer have the right to reside or work in the UK.

If their immigration circumstances change, or they have a work permit or visa with an expiry date, you will need to check the documents again. We recommend checking them at least annually to ensure that their right to work in the UK is still valid.

If all of this seems a little daunting, or you simply don’t feel that you have the time to conduct these checks, HR Alchemy can help. We provide advice and assistance with UK right to work checks. We can provide detailed guidance and an identification form to use from the outset, along with comprehensive instructions on what to do, and when to do it.

For peace of mind compliance when conducting right to work checks, get in touch with the team at HR Alchemy today on 03338 802810.

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