Right to work checks

Right to work checks

In August 2017, the UK government introduced a new version of its guideline 'An Employer's Guide to Right to Work Checks'. The changes aim to further clarify what documentation can be used as proof of right to work for certain statuses and update the sanction regime against non-compliant employers. Businesses and in particular human resource teams should ensure they have the right solutions in place to deal with the stricter regulation.

The Home Office has implemented stricter measures against illegal work in a bid to try and curb illegal immigration. As a result, in August 2017 the Home Office rolled out a new version of An Employer's Guide to Right to Work Checks.

Many aspects of the new guide remain the same, inasmuch as employers have to verify their potential employees’ right to work in the United Kingdom by viewing original document evidence and retaining copies - in other words, hold proof of right to work. Nevertheless, some notable changes have been introduced which include:

  • Greater responsibilities on employers to evidence that checks have been carried out.
  • Greater power from the Home Office to sanction illegal working.
  • Advice regarding right to work for Non-European Economic Area (EEA) individuals who are family members to EEA nationals.
  • Impact of the introduction of an updated Application Registration Card for asylum seekers right to work.
  • Clearer information on right to work for international students.

The main departure from the July 2016 guidance comes from an increased focus on recording when employers carried out the right to work checks. Proper records of when the checks have been submitted should now be compiled for easier referencing in case of suspected breach of labour laws. In addition, employers are also required to show physical or digital copies of documents at short notice, along with a precise record of when any initial and follow-up checks were made. Consequently, HR personnel have to maintain far more diligent record keeping especially given the significant penalties for failing to do so.

This move goes hand in hand with a wider regime of sanctions against illegal working brought about by the Immigration Act 2016. The new guide states that the Home Office now possesses more power to prosecute employers suspected of employing illegal workers. It also extends its power to issue closure notices and compliance orders to offending businesses.

Moreover, the guide contains a more comprehensive section on the type of documents required to show right to work for a Non-EEA individual who is a family member of an EEA national. Employers are recommended to consult a copy of the non-EEA nationals’ document, supporting their right to work in the UK, in case the former is unable to provide a residence permit or a visa. Passport, proof of relationship and evidence that treaty rights are respected can constitute sufficient evidence.  

Another clarification concerns the right to work for asylum seekers. The Home Office introduced a new Application Registration Card (ACR) in July 2017 that confers the right to work in the UK. Employers have now a responsibility to consult the Home Office Employer Checking Service to double-check if such rights have been granted to the ACR’s holder.

Lastly, the guide offers a much clearer definition of voluntary work, refining the conditions under which international students can be employed. Volunteering can be carried out by any individual permitted to reside in the UK while only some EEA nationals will solely have the right to conduct voluntary work. On the other hand, International students right to work have been brought into line with the rights contained in their documentation. From now on, students with limited right to work in the UK will have their conditions to work clearly stated in their passport or Biometric Residence Permit.

Carrying out right to work checks are business critical. Failing to do so adequately can result in heavy civil penalties up to £20,000 per worker. The seriousness of the offence is clearly stated on the Home Office website: “You can be sent to jail for 5 years and pay an unlimited fine if you’re found guilty of employing someone who you knew or had ‘reasonable cause to believe’ didn’t have the right to work in the UK.” The consequences extend much further than financial damages. Having an employee removed on the grounds of illegal working can cause significant disruption to day-to-day operations, and damage the employer's brand and reputation. You should know and care about who is working in your company.

For the past two decades, we have been helping our clients adhere to best-practice with international employee screening services. Please get in contact to see how we can help you.

Published: 18th April 2018