Business Law & Compliance

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5 steps to make sure new workers are allowed to work in the UK

5 Mins

Economic migrants come to the UK from across the globe, but as long as you’ve checked they have a valid passport, that’s everything you need to do to hire them, right? After all, you don’t do any more than that with people from the UK do you? 

Well, it’s not quite as simple as that, whether for UK workers or those from outside the UK. You must undertake thorough right to work checks on all potential members of staff, even if they seem as British as fish and chips.

The current right to work framework can be hard for even the most well-drilled of employers to navigate through. So, if you want to employ someone, follow this simple five step plan to ensure that you comply with the laws.

Step 1 – Ask for the candidate’s documents

Any prospective employee, regardless of nationality, must provide you with an original identification document as part of verifying their right to work in the UK. The UK Border Agency has split acceptable documents into two lists, List A and List B.

List A contains documents that allow a candidate the right to work in the UK with no restrictions, such as a passport or birth certificate. Documents on List B (such as work permits) usually indicate that the candidate has one or more limitations on their right to work in the UK, for example the amount of time they can be in the country or the type of establishment that they can work at. List B is split further into documents that are sufficient on their own, and documents that require additional paperwork before they can be accepted.

Step 2 – Check the combination of documents

If a candidate provides you with an original document from List A, this is sufficient proof of their right to work in the UK and no further checks are necessary during that candidate’s employment with you.

If a candidate provides you with a document from List B, you must check to see whether this is a document that is sufficient by itself, or whether it is one of the documents on the list that requires an additional document to accompany it.

Step 3 – Are you checking an original document?

Although it may seem like common sense, are the documents you’re checking the original documents? Photocopies or scans of original documents are not acceptable for the purposes of checking a candidate’s eligibility. You’d be surprised by how many people think presenting a photocopy of their passport on their first day at a new job will suffice!

Step 4 – Is the document complete?

Does the document the candidate presents you with need anything else to confirm its original status? For example, if a candidate presents a short-form birth certificate, this by itself won’t suffice as you need to see the full certificate to satisfy the right to work tests.

Step 5 – Is the check now complete?

So, your new employee has provided you with everything you need to verify that they have leave to work in the UK and you’ve taken and retained a copy – that’s it now right, they can get to work? Well, not quite.

If a candidate has provided you with documents from List B, you will need to undertake re-checks on that candidate’s right to work eligibility every 12 months. If their leave to work in the UK expires within 12 months of their start date with you, you will need to check their eligibility again at that time to find out if they continue to have the right to work in the UK – make sure you diarise this date!

There is nothing to fear when employing any worker and, as long as you follow the above checklist, you know you’ve done your due diligence. There‘s a lot of talent coming to the UK and after a few simple checks you should never have to worry about their right to work, enabling you to hire the best candidate for the job.

Matthew Sanders is CEO of de Poel.

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