July 30, 2015

Checking a new employee’s right to work in the UK

Checking a new employee’s right to work in the UK


Your business is expanding and you’ve interviewed and hired your first employee, but what do you need to check and what process needs to be in place to ensure you are covered legally and that you have employed someone that’s actually allowed to live and work in the UK; what are your legal obligations?


You are obliged to ensure that your new starter has the right to live and work in the UK. This is very important as employers can face hefty fines if they are found to employ illegal workers and haven’t checked ID, in fact the penalty can be up to £20,000!! You can do this in a number of ways, one of which is the easiest and that is to ask for the employee’s passport at interview stage. Most people have passports these days and if it isn’t a UK or EU passport, then it should state the employee’s visa details within it.


If an employee doesn’t have a UK passport they can provide you with a birth certificate and other forms of id, such as a P60 or P45. There are also many other acceptable forms of id such as a Residence Permit or a passport that has been issued by the Home Office endorsing that the holder has a right of residence or has no time limit on their stay.


When you are checking your employee’s right to work in the UK documents you must ensure the following:

  • That you look through and check the employee’s original documents.
  • That with the employee present you check the documents are valid and in date
  • You must make and keep copies of the original documents and make a note of the date that you made the check.

Once you have made the above checks you need to follow the process below:

  • Check that the documents are the originals, have not been tampered with and correspond with the person that you have employed
  • The validity of the employee’s right to work in the UK is still in date
  • The photos within the document look like your employee and are consistent with any other documents that they provide you with
  • The date of birth is the same as detailed in all documents
  • It’s stated that the employee actually has permission to do the type of work you are offering (including any limit on the number of hours they can work)
  • Regarding employing students, you need to see the evidence of their study and holiday times
  • If the documents state different names, the employee has supporting documents showing why they are different, for example a marriage certificate or divorce decree

To avoid any awkward conversations, ask for the eligibility to work in the UK at the interview stage. You don’t want to be in a situation where you find a great candidate and you offer them the job only to find when they actually start with you that they aren’t able to legally work in the UK and you have to let them go, meaning the recruitment process has to start again and you’ve potentially wasted a lot of time and money.

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