Proof of the right to work in the UK


Sometimes we all take our own knowledge for granted and think ‘everybody knows that don't they?' An example of this is, that I have recently come across a number of clients that were not aware that they have a legal responsibility to see and keep copies of all employees' documents evidencing they have the right to work in the UK.  I even came across somebody that thought they only had check and keep records from their employees from overseas! (Adopting this stance could result in a claim for race discrimination).

The reality for employers is that with effect from 12th July 2016 under the new Immigration Act 2016, (and as previously set out under Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 1996, and amended in 2008) before engaging a new employee, every employer has a legal obligation to carry out checks to ensure the individual has the right to work in the UK.


The purpose of the Act is to prevent illegal working in the UK. The Act introduced in July 2016 includes significantly harsher penalties for employers. This includes that an employer can no longer evade prosecution where the investigating agency cannot prove that the employer knew that the employee had no permission to work.

The amended offence enables employers to be prosecuted where they have reasonable cause to believe that the employee could not undertake the employment, even where they have perhaps deliberately ignored information or circumstances that would have caused the employer to know that the employee lacked permission to work. The maximum sentence of imprisonment for this offence has been increased from 2 to 5 years and the fine for each illegal worker which was £20,000 is now unlimited.

Employers must closely inspect the validity of the applicant's original documents in their presence (copies are not acceptable). The employer must take copies of the documents and record the date they were checked and then retain the copy for audit purposes.

It is good practice to include the request for the candidate to bring evidence of their right to work in the UK during the recruitment process and certainly no later than their first day of employment with you.  It is also advisable to include a clause in the contract of employment and any offer of employment letter that in line with the Act, they are required to provide these documents.

If you do not have copies of proof of the right to work in UK for all employees on file, or if you are unsure how to carry out checks, or if an employee is refusing to provide documents, please do give me a call to help avoid any huge financial penalties (uncapped) or even imprisonment.

Angie.  You can contact Angie Dansey at

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