From the 1 Oct 2022, the UK Government’s Home Office made it mandatory to perform a digital Right to Work Check before hiring any new employee. This move to digital online checks was a change due to the Covid pandemic: before you would have met a potential employee in person and checked their physical documents, now you might never meet a remote worker.
Carrying out a digital or virtual Right to Work Check (RTW) is necessary to ensure that your employees have the legal right to work in the UK. Failure to carry out these checks can result in severe consequences, both legally and financially. I’ll explain the process of how to conduct a right to work check, explain the legal requirements, and provide best practices to ensure compliance.
Why are right to work checks important?
Right to work checks are essential for several reasons. Firstly, they help prevent illegal working, which can lead to severe penalties for both employers and employees. By verifying the immigration status of your employees, you can avoid unknowingly hiring individuals without the right to work in the UK. This not only safeguards your business but also upholds the integrity of the immigration system.
Secondly, conducting right to work checks demonstrates your commitment to complying with the law. It clearly signals to your employees, stakeholders, and authorities that you take your obligations seriously and prioritize the legality and fairness of your workforce. This can enhance your reputation as a responsible employer and potentially attract and retain top talent.
Legal requirements for right to work checks
To conduct right to work checks, you must adhere to the legal requirements set out by the UK government. These requirements ensure that your checks are fair, consistent, and non-discriminatory. The primary legislation governing right to work checks is the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006.
According to the law, you must check the original documents that prove an individual’s right to work. These documents can include a passport, biometric residence permit, or a combination of specified documents outlined in the government’s Right to Work Checklist.
You must now use an approved online digital provider to run the RTW check for you. The provider asks the applicant or potential employee to complete a forms, upload a document and take a photograph using their phone or laptop camera. All of these together are then automatically checked by the provider and the report sent back to you to confirm if the applicant has permission to work in the UK.
Furthermore, you must conduct right to work checks for every employee, regardless of their nationality or ethnic background. It is essential to treat all employees equally and avoid discrimination based on race, religion, or nationality. By following these legal requirements, you can ensure that your right to work checks are thorough, fair, and in compliance with the law.
Who do I need to check?
Before they can be employed, employers must carry our due diligence (according to the UK’s Immigration, Nationality and Asylum Act) to confirm that any temporary, part-time or permanent potential employee has the right to work in the UK. This also includes any work experience or unpaid workers. Right to work checks are required for all British and Irish nationals as well as EEA and Non-EEA nationals – and you must keep the evidence of all right to work checks carried out.
What happens if I do not run a check?
You company could face a fine of up to £20,000 for each employee if they are found to be working in the UK illegally or the directors could face a prison sentence.
How to conduct a virtual or digital right to work check
Conducting a right to work check involves a systematic process to verify an individual’s eligibility to work in the UK. Since the requirement to use a digital platform was introduced in 2022, the steps for the employer are much simpler:
- sign up with an approved provider of virtual right to work checks
- Buy a check (normally around £10)
- Enter the applicant details of the potential employee (normally their name and email address)
- The provider then sends the potential employee an email invitation to complete a form with their personal details (name, address, date of birth) and take a photo (often called a liveness test) and upload a photo of their passport or driving licence
- The provider processes this information and checks the government databases then returns the result to the applicant and the employer.
By following these steps, you can ensure that your right to work checks are thorough, consistent, and in compliance with the law.
Valid documents for right to work checks
When conducting right to work checks, it is essential to know which documents are considered valid. The UK government provides a comprehensive list of acceptable documents in their Right to Work Checklist. These documents include:
- A passport showing the holder is a British citizen or a citizen of the UK and Colonies having the right of abode in the UK
- A biometric residence permit
- A work permit or visa issued by the Home Office
- A registration certificate or document certifying permanent residence issued by the Home Office, and many more.
Approved providers of digital right to work checks
The UK Home Office publishes a list of approved providers and some of the best-known providers include:
Common mistakes to avoid in right to work checks
While conducting right to work checks, it is essential to be aware of common mistakes and avoid them. Some of the common errors include:
- Relying solely on visual checks: It is not enough to rely solely on visual checks of the documents. Ensure that you verify the authenticity of the documents using appropriate tools provided by the government. This helps prevent fraud and counterfeit documents from slipping through.
- Failing to keep records: It is a legal requirement to retain copies of the documents checked. Failing to do so can result in penalties if you are audited by immigration authorities. Keep a record of the date of the check and store the copies securely for at least two years after employment ends.
- Discrimination: Treat all employees equally and avoid any form of discrimination during the right to work checks. Ensure that you apply the same process and requirements to every employee, regardless of their nationality or ethnic background.
By avoiding these common mistakes, you can ensure that your right to work checks are accurate, compliant, and fair.
Consequences of failing to carry out right to work checks
Failing to carry out right to work checks can have severe consequences for your business. The Home Office has the power to issue civil penalties for employing illegal workers, which can reach up to £20,000 per worker. These penalties are calculated based on the severity of the violation and the number of illegal workers employed.
In addition to financial penalties, your business may face reputational damage, legal consequences, and potential disruption to operations. There is also the risk of losing your sponsor license, which allows you to hire non-EEA workers. Therefore, it is crucial to prioritize right to work checks and ensure compliance to safeguard your business and reputation.
Best practices for conducting right to work checks
To conduct effective right to work checks, it is essential to follow best practices. Here are some recommendations to ensure compliance:
- Establish a clear process: Develop a clear and documented process for conducting right to work checks. This ensures consistency and provides guidance for your HR team and managers.
- Train your staff: Provide appropriate training to your HR team and managers on conducting right to work checks. This helps them understand the legal requirements, identify valid documents, and avoid common mistakes.
- Regularly review and update your policies: Stay up-to-date with changes in immigration laws and regulations. Regularly review and update your policies and procedures to ensure compliance with the latest requirements.
By implementing these best practices, you can streamline your right to work checks and minimize the risk of non-compliance.
Frequently asked questions about right to work checks
1. Do I need to conduct right to work checks for existing employees?
Yes, the law requires you to conduct right to work checks for all employees, including existing ones. You should carry out retrospective checks on existing employees who were hired before the introduction of the right to work check process in your organization.
2. Can I delegate right to work checks to another person?
Yes, you can delegate the responsibility of conducting right to work checks to another person within your organization. However, it is crucial to ensure that the delegated person is adequately trained, understands the legal requirements, and follows the correct process.
3. What if an employee’s right to work documents expire?
If an employee’s right to work documents expire, you must conduct follow-up checks to verify their continued eligibility to work in the UK. This helps ensure that your workforce remains legal and compliant.
In conclusion, understanding the importance of right to work checks is crucial for every employer in the UK. By conducting these checks diligently, you can prevent illegal working, comply with the law, and protect your business from severe penalties. Remember to follow the legal requirements, verify valid documents, and avoid common mistakes. Implementing best practices and providing proper training to your staff will further enhance your compliance efforts. By prioritizing right to work checks, you can maintain a legal and responsible workforce, safeguard your reputation, and contribute to the integrity of the UK’s immigration system.