Right to work documents

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Checking a job applicant’s right to work documents

As an employer, you have a duty to check if a candidate is allowed to work for you in the UK.
A right to work check consists of checking a document which is acceptable for demonstrating someone’s permission to work. You must do this before you employ a person to ensure they are legally allowed to work.
If an audit reveals that you have employed someone who does not have the right to work on or after 29 February 2008, but you have correctly conducted document checks as required, you will not receive a civil penalty for that illegal worker. 
It is therefore paramount that you should adopt as best practice the carrying out of pre-employment checks.
Checking right to work in 3 simple steps:
1. Obtain the person’s original documents
2. Check the validity of the documents in the presence of the holder
3. Make and retain a clear copy, and make a record of the date of the check.
Obtaining acceptable documents:
There are two lists of acceptable documents, as set out by The Home Office:
  • Acceptable documents to establish a continuous statutory excuse (such as passports, identity cards, permanent residence card, etc..)
  • Documents where a time-limited statutory excuse lasts until the expiry date of leave or last for 6 months (such as current Biometric Immigration, current Immigration Status Document, A Positive Verification Notice, etc..)
          The full lists can be found in this Home Office Guide
Checking the validity of the documents:
As an employer, it is your responsibility to check the documents. Even if the checks are delegated to another employee, it remains your responsibility. You would still be liable for any penalty. Employee training is therefore essential.
When you are checking the validity of the documents, you must ensure that you do this in the presence of the holder. This can be either a physical presence in person or via a live video link. In both cases you must be in physical possession of the original documents. You may not rely on the inspection of the document via a live video link or by checking a faxed or scanned copy of the document.
Recording and retaining checked documents:
  • Documents must be recorded in either a hardcopy or scanned copy 
  • The copy must be in a format which can not be altered (eg. jpeg or pdf)
  • Copies of documents must be kept securely during the employment period
  • Copies must be retained for two years after the employee stops working for you
  • Record the date the check was made 
  • You must be able to quickly produce the documents when requested by the authorities
Check if a document allows someone to work in the UK interactive tool
Further information here


Disclaimer: this article is only intended as an overview of the legislation. You must always check directly with HMRC, ACAS or your own legal consultant for further information.