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Five things you need to know about right to work checks

The right to work checks in place in the UK are complex and detailed. Businesses should take advice on a case-by-case basis to make sure that they stay on the right side of the law. We have set out below 5 facts about right to work checks:

  • You must check all job applicants’ right to work in the UK before you employ them. If you do this correctly in accordance with the government’s requirements then this will provide your business with a ‘statutory excuse’: a defence against a civil penalty (due to rise to £45,000 per breach in 2024) which would otherwise be payable for employing an illegal worker. 
  • There are three main ways of checking an applicant’s right to work which, if completed correctly, can provide a ‘statutory excuse’: online if they have a share code; by checking the applicant’s original documents; or by using an identity service provider that offers Identity Document Validation Technology (IDVT). Different methods of verification are required depending on the nationality and immigration status of the applicant involved.
  • In some circumstances, an applicant will not be able to demonstrate a right to work using any of the above methods. In such cases you must ask the Home Office (using the Employer Checking Service) to check the applicant’s immigration status. They will provide a Positive Verification Notice (PVN) if the applicant has the right to work. The PVN must be kept as this can be used as a defence against a civil penalty. 
  • Checks of manual documents must be done in a certain way following a three-step process: Obtain, Check and Copy. The actual documents must be seen in-person. Copies are not acceptable.
  • The list of acceptable documents is published by the Home Office and is split between List A (permanent right to work) and List B (temporary right to work). If you conduct the right to work checks correctly before employment begins and obtain documents from List A, you will establish a continuous statutory excuse for the duration of that person’s employment with you. You do not have to conduct any follow-up checks on this individual. If you conduct the right to work checks correctly after obtaining documents from List B, you will establish a time-limited statutory excuse. You will be required to conduct a follow-up check in order to retain your statutory excuse.