Skip to main content

Why do we need to do pre-employment immigration checks on UK recruits?

Illustration showing a man and a woman on their phones next to an identity document scanner

As you probably know, every employer has a legal duty to prevent illegal working and is required to undertake pre-employment immigration checks on all staff to ensure that they have the right to work in the UK. But if your recruits claim to be British nationals, do you really need to make Right to Work checks?

Employers could face prosecution if they deliberately ignore the law and employ someone who does not have the right to work in the UK or if they have ‘reasonable cause to believe’ that they are working illegally. Penalties can include fines of up to £20,000 per illegal worker.  So, to establish what is known as a “statutory excuse” and avoid paying a fine, it’s important to undertake the appropriate pre-employment checks.

Checks mean you can be sure

If you’re employing someone who holds a genuine passport from the UK, or anyone with indefinite leave to remain in the UK, they do have the Right to Work in the UK. However, the population of the UK is ethnically diverse and it is impossible to tell who has the right to work in the UK without seeing and checking the relevant documents. So, the only way to be sure that you have properly carried out your checks, and to protect yourself from the risk of a civil penalty, is to undertake thorough checks on all staff irrespective of where they have come from.

Avoid discrimination

If you only carry out checks on people who you believe are not British citizens, for example, based on their ethnic or national origins, you are likely be accused of discrimination. You mustn’t assume that someone is British or has the right to work in the UK simply based on their English sounding name or British accent, nor should you assume that someone doesn’t have the right to work because they don’t have a traditionally British name or accent.

British documents aren’t always genuine

What’s more, just because someone presents a British document, that doesn’t mean it’s genuine! False documents purporting to be issued by British authorities accounted for 34% of all false documents referred to our document helpdesk in a 12-month period from March 2017 to March 2018.

A breakdown of those ‘British issued’ false documents shows that 52% were visas, 31% were Biometric Residence Permits, 11% were passports and 6% were driving licenses.

So, it’s a myth to believe that you don’t need to check British employees.

Before any candidate starts working for you, you must ask them to provide you with certain original documents to establish that he / she can accept the work on offer. You must satisfy yourself that the individual is the person named in them and check any photographs or dates of birth given and retain copies of the documents in your systems.

Want to find out more?

Our Right to Work service can help you with compliance by making quick, consistent checks on applicants for as little as £3 per check.  Why not find out how we could help you?

You can request our guide on the latest changes to Right to Work here.

More about Right to Work