There are several checks an employer must legally carry out when employing someone, with responsibility laying entirely with the employer. This article will give tips on checking if someone has the right to work in the UK thoroughly…

It may seem like an obvious one for employers, but checking someone has the right to work in the UK before or during the employment of a migrant worker should be the first of many background checks on someone. The UK government is cracking down hard on illegal workers, with the recent Immigration Act introduced in 2016.

The Immigration Act 2016 means responsibility lies entirely with the employer to prevent illegal workers. It also means that they can face hefty fines of up to £10,000 per illegal worker, and even time behind bars if caught out.

For migrants to work in the UK they should have an adequate visa that allows them the right to work, or must have an indefinite leave to remain status. Let’s delve into more details and how to go about checking migrant workers documents…


Why Do You Need to Prevent Illegal Working?

You may be wondering why someone’s employability status matters, but without it, a worker has essentially no rights. This could easily result in abusive and exploitative behaviour from the employer, along with mistreatment to migrant workers, illegal housing conditions and tax evasion.

Modern slavery is very much still a real threat for migrant workers who are simply looking to make a better life here in the UK. Having the right to work in the UK is primarily to protect them and their well-being.

The existence of the civil penalty scheme means employers, therefore, cannot have a statutory excuse for not carrying out these essential checks on a migrant worker.


How do you Check if Someone has the Right to Work in the UK?

There are various types of visas that allow a person to work in the UK that can be found here. Most types of visas need sponsorship from an employer, in which case documents should be in hand prior to the arrival of a migrant worker or expected on arrival.

If a person has an ‘indefinite leave to remain’ status, this gives them a lot more freedom and flexibility than living in the UK on other kinds of visas, such as a skilled worker visa, intra company transfer visa, business visas, start-up visas and an innovator visa. Indefinite leave to remain status doesn’t require any form of sponsorship from an employer.

As mentioned previously, it is entirely down to the employer to carry out due-diligence checks on all employees. Here are some tips on how to ensure documents are checked thoroughly to avoid prosecution….


1.    Check Documents are Genuine

There is a long list of documents that can prove someone’s right to work in the UK, but ensuring they are all genuine can be tricky. Look out for obvious mistakes on the documents, as some fraudsters make simple mistakes, and some will often contain unusual formatting.


2.    Check Rights to Work Have Not Expired

A person may not realise that their work visa has actually expired, which means they won’t have the right to work anymore and would have to re-apply. It is illegal to hire someone who is waiting on any update on an expired visa. Migrants, however, can remain in the UK whilst there is an active application pending a result.


3.    Check the Photographs Are All the Same

Photo identification should be the same across all documents so it’s best to check all of them to make sure they corelate and look like who the person claims to be.


4.    Check Date of Birth is the Same Across Documents

If a person’s documents are genuine, the information including a date of birth will be identical across all papers. Keep an eye out for discrepancies.

5.    Check Permission to do the Type of Job Offered

You will need to check what a person’s visa allows them to do. For example, some visas are only granted for a specific job or skill. They may not be permitted to apply for any other kind of roles during their time in the UK.


6.    For Students, Check Evidence of Term Times and Vacation Days

Student visas do allow a person to work up to 20 hours a week temporarily, but only if they are in full time education. They are permitted to work full time hours during holidays outside term time, but cannot be employed on a permanent basis.

Migrant students who are studying part time are not permitted to undertake work in the UK.


7.    Gather Supporting Documents to Explain Name Changes

It’s not uncommon for migrants to change names as they come to the UK. However, this change needs to be acknowledged officially, and evidence from supporting documents should be presented to confirm the change of name.


8.    Take Copies of All Documents

Only original documents can be taken to copy from the migrant worker, copies of such documents cannot be accepted.


9.    Ask the Home Office for an Employee’s Immigration Status

The UK government has an easy tool for checking someone’s right to work here. Make sure you’re looking at the most up to date news by using trusted sites on rules of employment. Brexit and COVID-19 have caused a lot of changes, but the government’s helpful tool provides the latest updates.


10.  Follow Appropriate Codes of Practise

Following the statutory codes of practise helps employers prevent illegal working. Fully understanding the civil penalties they could face if these codes aren’t followed is also paramount.

There are no excuses for hiring illegal workers…

It might seem like a tedious job to have to be so thorough with checking someone has the right to work in the UK. However, it’s important to realise these civil penalty schemes exist to prevent, in extreme cases, modern slavery.

The welfare of employees should be a top priority for any employer. Without following government procedures, you could wind up in need of legal advice. However, if you follow the advice given in this article the chances of this will be minimised.

Please be advised that this article is for general informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for advice from a trained immigration professional. Be sure to consult an immigration professional if you’re seeking immigration advice as an employee or employer. We are not liable for risks or issues associated with using or acting upon the information on this site.


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