As an employer in the UK, by law, all new hires must be subject to Right to Work (RTW) checks. These checks ensure that individuals possess the necessary documentation to legally work in the United Kingdom, making them particularly crucial when recruiting from overseas. Either way, whether you are hiring locally or from abroad, understanding and implementing proper Right to Work checks is of utmost importance.
Understanding Right to Work Checks
This first section will help employers understand exactly what Right to Work checks are and what will happen if you don’t implement them during your hiring process.
What Are Right to Work Checks?
Right to Work checks are a crucial part of the hiring process that employers must undertake to verify an individual’s eligibility to work in the UK. These checks are a pre-employment screening process designed to ensure that prospective hires have the legal right to work in the country.
As an employer, it is your responsibility to conduct these checks for every new hire, regardless of their nationality or immigration status. Right to Work checks help maintain the integrity of the workforce, ensure compliance with employment law, and protect your organisation from potential legal consequences.
The Consequences of Non-Compliance
The penalties for non-compliance can be significant. You’ll receive penalty notice from His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) which, depending on the circumstances, can cost up to £20,000.
You are also subject to a two-year jail sentence as well as having to pay an unlimited fine. This happens if you’re found guilty of employing someone who you had ‘reasonable cause to believe’ did not have the right to work in the UK.
Additionally, non-compliance can lead to reputational damage, strained working relationships, and disruptions within your workforce.
How to Prepare for Right to Work Checks
This section will deal with how you can best prepare for your RTW checks, including documentation and the need to set up a clear procedure.
Get to Know the Documentation
To effectively conduct RTW checks, employers must familiarise themselves with the acceptable documents that demonstrate an individual’s right to work. These documents include:
- passport or passport card
- birth or adoption certificate
- residence permit
- immigration status document
- permanent National Insurance number
- share code
What is a Right to Work share code?
A share code is an online nine-digit alpha-numerical code to prove a person’s right to work if the checks cannot be carried out in person. These codes have replaced biometric residence cards or permits.
Employers should ask all interviewees or staff members with a UK residence card to provide a share code when conducting RTW checks. They can send you their share code via email or tell you in confidence.
Establishing a Clear Procedure
Developing a well-defined RTW policy within your organisation is essential. Assigning specific responsibilities and roles to those involved in the recruitment process will help streamline the checks and ensure consistency.
Conducting Right to Work Checks
We’ll now discuss how to best conduct Right to Work checks within your organisation
Timing of the Checks
Perform RTW checks before an individual starts working for your organisation. It is crucial to carry out these checks as early as possible to avoid any potential issues and maintain compliance. Keep in mind that they usually take between one and four weeks.
Types of Checks
There are 3 primary methods of conducting RTW checks:
- Manual checks – this involves meeting the potential employee in person and checking the physical, original documents to prove their identity
- Online checks – these checks can be carried out using a share code. These can be done via video call as the information is accessed directly from the Home Office.
- Identity Service Providers (IDSPs) – you can commission certified IDSPs to complete digital RTW checks for British and Irish citizens
How to Conduct Right to Work Checks
Step 1: Set up a meeting with the applicant. They must bring original documents that prove their immigration status. Or, if the person has a UK residence card and you are checking remotely, a valid share code.
Biometric residence cards or permits are no longer accepted as proof of legal status.
Step 2: Check the documents with the applicant present to ensure they are valid and in date. The gov.uk website should be used to check share codes.
Step 3: Make and file copies of the documents and record the RTW check date. If your employee’s right to work is time-limited, make a note to check their documents upon expiry.
Staying Up To Date and Adapting
Lastly, we’ll cover the importance of Right to Work check maintenance and staying up-to-date with current regulations.
Regular Monitoring and Record-Keeping
Maintaining accurate and up-to-date records of RTW checks is crucial for compliance. By regularly monitoring and auditing these records, you can avoid any potential issues.
Changes in Legislation and Guidance
Employment laws and regulations are subject to change so keep up with the latest guidance provided by the Home Office. Moreover, make use of available resources to stay knowledgeable and adapt your practices accordingly.
Conducting Right to Work checks is a fundamental responsibility for all employers in the UK. By understanding the importance of these checks and following the proper procedures, you can ensure compliance and mitigate the risks associated with employing individuals without the right to work.
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