Ask the expert: The right to work

Q. OUR practice is currently in the process of recruiting a new member to the team. Before beginning the interview process, how do we ensure that the successful candidate has the right to work in the UK?

A. In any practice, an essential part of the recruitment process is checking whether your successful candidate has the right to work in this country. Employers can face a civil penalty if they employ an illegal worker and don’t carry out right-to-work checks.

Before employing a candidate, practices must check their original documents are valid (with the worker present). It is important to make copies of the documents and record the date you made the check. If a candidate is unable to show their documents, the Home Office will be able to supply the prospective employee’s immigration employment status.

Ensure that the employee’s documents are valid by checking:

  • the dates for the worker’s right to work in the UK haven’t expired
  • photos are the same across all documents and look like the applicant
  • dates of birth are the same across all documents
  • the person has permission to do the type of work you are offering (including any limit on the number of hours they can work)
  • the person has supporting documents (e.g. marriage certificate or divorce decree) if documents show different names

In terms of taking copies of the documents, you should do the following (taking into account data protection laws):

  • make a copy that can’t be changed (e.g. a photocopy)
  • for passports, copy any page with the expiry date, applicants details (e.g. nationality, date of birth)
  • for biometric residence permits, copy both sides
  • for all other documents you must make a complete copy
  • keep copies during the worker’s employment and for two years after the person stops working for you
  • record the date the check was made

The government website has an easy-to-use online check that can help you determine whether the person has the right to work in the UK.

The Home Office provides further support via a helpline for employers - 0300 123 4699.