Time to tighten up on your employment checks

With the Immigration Bill looming, and £20,000 fines on the cards, now is the time to tighten up your checks on whom you employ and their right to work in the UK.

This Bill, expected to be law by the summer or shortly afterwards, means you could face that £20,000 penalty or even criminal prosecution if you have “reasonable cause to believe” that you have engaged an illegal worker. You can be prosecuted even if you did not know the individual was working illegally. Enforcement officers will also have the power to shut a business down immediately pending actions in court.

The greatest risk for law-abiding employers is inadvertently employing someone illegally and therefore being liable to a fine. Relying on documents that are unclear or incomplete, will no longer mitigate an offence.

The answer is to always check the status of everyone you employ. It needs to be everyone, or you run another risk – a claim of racial discrimination.

The checks for legal status extend beyond just asking to see a driving licence (as someone suggested to us on one occasion)!

Incidentally, the Bill will also make it illegal to advertise a vacancy abroad unless the vacancy is also advertised in the UK.
A list of the documents you can use to check legal status is here.

So as not to be caught out:

  • Conduct checks prior to allowing the applicant to start work.
  • Always check original documents in the presence of the individual.
  • Check the photograph, and check that documents are fully complete – take a second opinion if recognising faces is not your strong point.
  • Make copies for the employee’s file scanned copies are acceptable if the file is unalterable (some .pdfs and jpegs fall into this category).
  • Record the date the check was made in the employees record or on the photocopy. This is an essential requirement.
  • Keep the records secure and accessible.
  • If permission to work in the UK is time-limited then diary the follow up check.
  • Additional information is required if the employee is a student.

You can also find more detail here.

The current Code of Practice on preventing illegal working is here.

The current right to work checklist is here.

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