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Knowingly hiring individuals that do not have the right to work in the UK is a criminal offence. Employers risk civil penalties of up to £20,000 per illegal worker for negligently hiring individuals without checking their right to work in the UK. This is not to mention the negative media coverage that employers might receive when they are named and shamed.
The way to avoid this and obtain a statutory excuse against liability is to conduct valid right to work checks in accordance with Home Office guidance. This provides protection for an employer even if it turns out that the individual does not have the right to work (for example, if the worker in question has a convincing forgery of a British passport). These checks should be conducted on all employees.
For British and Irish nationals it can be a simple matter of checking and taking a copy of the individual’s passport. For migrants to the UK it can be more complicated and generally involves conducting online checks through an access code or the Home Office Employer Checking Service.
During the COVID-19 pandemic it was possible for checks on British and Irish passports to be conducted remotely via a video call in order to maintain social distancing. However, these arrangements ended on 1 October 2022. Now employers must receive the physical document and check it against the likeness of the employee in person. For many employers this will not be too much of a burden but with the increase in remote working, employers should be careful to ensure that their right to work checks comply with the rules in order to maintain their statutory excuse against liability.
One other option is to consider the use of an Identity Service Provider to undertake these checks for you. There are a number of these providers registered with the Home Office that will provide this service for a fee.
Right to work checks can be complicated but it is important that they are carried out effectively as the consequences of failing to do them can be serious. Employers that have become used to remote working will have to take steps to either ensure that manual checks are now done in person or engage an Identity Service Provider.
If you have any questions about right to work checks in the UK, please feel free to contact our Business Immigration team for further information.
This article has been produced for general information purposes and further advice should be sought from a professional advisor.