Employers’ Guide: Right to Work Check [2021 Edition]

Understanding Right to Work Checks in the UK

Right to work background checks can be incredibly time-consuming but are absolutely essential. They’re a legal requirement and failing to conduct them on new hires can result in serious consequences for employers.

The question is, how can you carry out these important processes without losing too much valuable time?

What is a Right to Work Check?

A right to work check involves checking documents that verify a person’s permission to work in the UK. Employers have a legal obligation to carry out these right to work document screenings before a candidate is employed to ensure they are legally allowed to fill the role in question.

The Home Office was instrumental in instigating the requirement for the proof of right to work in the UK, to prevent illegal workers from entering and working for an organisation. By conducting these right to work checks, it clears the organisation of any liability for employing workers that legally do not have the eligibility to work in the UK.

What is AML Compliance?

Anti-money laundering compliance is the process of conducting background checks and financial checks while monitoring customers to identify and eliminate any efforts of money laundering.

Customers are screened against various lists, including:

  • Global watchlists
  • Sanctions
  • PEPs (Politically Exposed Persons) lists

AML checks and financial sanctions checks are required by industries including banks, building societies, stock exchanges, estate agencies and many others.

Who Needs a Right to Work Check?

Everyone needs to possess the correct right to work documents. For most people in the UK, acceptable documents include a passport or identity card.

The right to work guidance remains unchanged since the UK left the EU in January 2020. Nationals from the EEA and Switzerland (at this time of writing) have an automatic right to work which can be evidenced with a passport or national identity card.

In the UK, businesses can be fined and potentially prosecuted for failing to comply with right to work procedures. Employers should take the necessary steps to ensure that any workers from overseas are working within the legality of their visas, and not working without permission.

There was an incident in 2017 where a restaurant was shut down temporarily due to issues of employing illegal workers. This followed previous instances where civil penalties and fines (totalling upwards of £88,000) had been imposed by the Home Office.

Non-compliance with the Immigration Act 2016 means that immigration officers have the power to close down a business. The Home Office can fine a business up to £20,000 per worker, for every incomplete or failed right to work check.

How Long Does a Right to Work Check Take?

Right to work checks are normally undertaken very promptly, with electronic checks taking anywhere between 5 minutes to an hour. If alternative identity documents are provided, such as a birth certificate, it might take a little longer but in the majority of cases, personal identity checks to prove your right to work can be very quick.

However, some instances can cause delays to the procedure. Electronic verification systems are designed to speed up the process by immediately confirming the legitimacy of the documents. Not so much ascertain whether a particular person is verified to work.

The most frequent reasons for errors showing up, thus causing delays are:

  • Blurry images and photographs
  • Ineligible text
  • Missing signatures
  • Incomplete or missing sections from the document
  • Potentially manipulated or falsified documents

These errors aren’t always indicative of someone not having the right to work in the UK, but if the right to work documents are not completed thoroughly, or falsified in any way, there will be additional delays. The umbrella organisation carrying out the checks (such as Eurocom CI) will have to consult with the relevant parties to verify the information, which can take time.

How to Speed Up the Right to Work Check Process

The most efficient right to work process is one which goes smoothly, without any delays. There are steps which companies can take to make it perfectly clear for their prospective employees and make it easier to keep track of imminent visa expiry dates so they are not breaking the law.

  1. Establish clear, step-by-step instructions explaining all the right to work information that’s required by the applicant.
  2. Invest in an efficient system which helps to validate documents as authentic and not manipulated.
  3. An electronic system that has plenty of digital storage, means it’s easier to find copies of documents, rather than sift through paperwork.
  4. Setting alerts for upcoming expiry dates on visas, and when re-checks would be required. This gives you plenty of time to conduct the re-checks.
  5. Establish processes where you can import candidate information straight into your HR systems to ease the onboarding process.

Need Help with Background Checks?

Eurocom CI offers systems and solutions for clients across various sectors, helping them check candidates’ rights to work in the UK quickly and efficiently.

We can help your organisation implement procedures that help your right to work verification processes, and we can lend a helping hand in assisting with other background checks. These include anything from DBS checks to screening against industry-specific standards like SMCR, BPSS and much more.