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Employer's Guide to Right to Work Checks in the UK

Employers in the United Kingdom are obligated to conduct right to work checks to ensure that their employees have the legal right to work in the country. Failure to carry out these checks can result in severe penalties, including fines and even imprisonment. Therefore, it is crucial for employers to understand their responsibilities and the correct procedures for conducting right to work checks.

Legal Framework

The legal framework for right to work checks in the UK is primarily governed by the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006, as well as the Immigration Act 2016. These laws outline the requirements for employers to verify the immigration status of their employees and establish the penalties for non-compliance.

Who Needs to Undergo Right to Work Checks?

All employers in the UK are required to conduct right to work checks on their employees, regardless of the size of their business or the nature of the employment contract. This includes full-time, part-time, temporary, and agency workers.

When to Conduct Right to Work Checks?

Right to work checks should be carried out before an individual starts working for an employer. Employers should not discriminate against potential employees based on their nationality or ethnic background, but they must ensure that everyone they hire has the legal right to work in the UK.

What Documents are Acceptable?

Employers must check original documents to verify a person's right to work in the UK. Acceptable documents include:

1. A passport showing that the holder is a British citizen or a citizen of the UK and Colonies having the right of abode in the UK.

2. A passport or national identity card showing that the holder is a national of the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland.

3. A residence permit, registration certificate, or document certifying permanent residence issued by the Home Office.

4. A biometric immigration document issued by the Home Office indicating that the person named is allowed to stay indefinitely in the UK, has no time limit on their stay in the UK, or is allowed to stay in the UK for a limited time.

5. A passport or other travel document endorsed with a work visa or other endorsement indicating that the holder may stay in the UK and is allowed to work.

These are just a few examples of the documents that can be used to demonstrate the right to work in the UK. Employers should consult the Home Office's guidance for a comprehensive list of acceptable documents.

How to Conduct Right to Work Checks?

When conducting right to work checks, employers must follow a strict process to ensure compliance with the law. The key steps include:

1. Obtain the original documents from the prospective employee.

2. Check the documents to ensure they are valid and belong to the individual presenting them.

3. Make and retain copies of the documents.

4. Record the date of the check.

5. Conduct follow-up checks if the employee's permission to work in the UK is time-limited.

Employers should be mindful of the potential for fraudulent documents and exercise due diligence when verifying their authenticity. If there is any doubt about the validity of the documents, employers can use the Home Office's online right to work checking service or seek advice from the Employer Checking Service.

Penalties for Non-Compliance

Failure to conduct right to work checks or knowingly employing someone who does not have the right to work in the UK can result in severe penalties. Employers may face civil penalties of up to £20,000 per illegal worker and criminal sanctions, including fines and imprisonment, for more serious breaches of the law.

Additionally, employers who fail to comply with their legal obligations may be subject to reputational damage and could be barred from sponsoring migrant workers in the future.


Employers in the UK have a legal responsibility to conduct right to work checks on their employees to ensure compliance with immigration laws. By following the correct procedures and verifying the immigration status of their workers, employers can avoid potential penalties and safeguard their businesses. It is essential for employers to stay informed about their obligations and seek guidance from the Home Office or legal professionals if they have any questions or concerns about right to work checks.


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