People Management: Employee Eligibility to Work in the UK
If I said the word ‘Penalty’ what do you imagine?
The majority of us would associate the word with doing something wrong, breaking a rule and receiving a subsequent punishment. It could be an intentional rule break that you were conscious of making, or a misunderstanding. I think, on the whole the majority of us unintentionally break the rules, or are unaware of the rules in that instant. Often a reminder of the rule break and a punishment remains in our minds and we don’t ever make the same mistake again, we learn from it and the risk is reduced. Within business this can be the case too. Every UK business, no matter what the size, has a duty to ensure that the people they employee are eligible to work for them. So, do your employees have the right to work for you? Are they eligible to be contracted to work in your organisation? It is law that every employer is required to check (& possibly re-check) each person that works for them.
You are required to obtain proof that a check has been done and that the employee, to the best of your knowledge based on the documentation you have has the right to work in the UK and for your business. A record of the check needs to be kept in case a home office inspection is performed on your business.
What are the risks?
Well, a rule break could be costly, very costly in fact. Penalties of up to £10,000 can be issued for those who are found working illegally in the business. This could easily cripple, or indeed force a smaller business to cease trading because a simple check wasn’t done, or a false check was recorded.
Now, it is important to stress that providing you do carry out these checks, you will have a statutory excuse against receiving a civil penalty if you are found to be employing an illegal worker, providing you were unaware that they were working illegally.
Guidance is provided by the home office on what documents you should be asking for, checking and what you should be looking for on these documents. From an employer’s point of view, it can be tricky with all the types of documents a new employee could have. Documents like a Visa, Biometric Immigration document or a Certificate of Application, they all sound daunting and how do we know if it’s correct? Rest assured there is help online for you.
If we take one of the easiest documents we could receive, a British passport, it is something we are aware of and used to but if you ever saw my passport you would have to take a second (or even third look!) As long as you have taken reasonable steps in ensuring the validity of the document and have a statutory excuse you should be okay, but if you are concerned on in any doubt please seek advice.
Just like driving, you need to be aware, careful, abide by the rules and be mindful of the repercussions a rule break could cost your business. Remember, if you are ensure then stop and ask. Nobody wants people to be caught especially if they were unaware or had done their best.
For more information on the Home Office policies and additional guidance you can visit https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/right-to-work-checks-employers-guide