Right to Work Documents: How to Check a Potential Employee

Checking potential employees’ right to work documents is an essential part of the recruitment process, so it’s important that you get it right.

Luckily, the process is simple if you know what to do – and that’s where we come in.

In this blog we’ll go over everything you need to know about checking a job applicant’s right to work documents.

right to work documents

The importance of checking right to work documents


Employers have a legal duty to make sure their employees have the right to work in the UK.

It’s illegal to employ someone who isn’t allowed to work in the UK. Carrying out right to work checks is a requirement for all potential employees. 

If one of your employees is found to be working illegally and you haven’t carried out a right to work check, you may face sanctions including:

  • A civil penalty of up to £20,000 per illegal worker
  • In serious cases, a criminal conviction with a prison sentence of up to five years and an unlimited fine
  • Closure of your business
  • Seizure of earnings made as a result of employing an illegal worker


What does a right to work check involve?


Carrying out a right to work check involves either checking an applicant’s original documents or checking their right to work details online.

Right to work checks should be carried out on all prospective employees before they start work.

If an employee’s right to work is time limited, you should also carry out a follow-up check.


How to check right to work documents


If you’re checking an applicant’s right to work documents, you must see their original documents – not photocopies – and must check them with the applicant present.

You must also make and safely store copies of the documents, and record the date of the check.

You should check that:

  • The right to work documents are original, genuine and unchanged, and belong to the applicant
  • The dates for the applicant’s right to work in the UK have not expired
  • The applicant’s date of birth is the same across all documents
  • Any photos look like the applicant and are the same across all documents
  • The applicant is allowed to do the type of work you’re offering (including any limit on the number of hours they can work)
  • If the applicant is a student, you see evidence of their study and vacation times
  • If documents give differing names, the applicant has supporting documents that show why they’re different, such as a marriage certificate or divorce decree


What documents can be accepted?


To find out which documents can be accepted as right to work documents, see the Home Office’s Right to Work Checklist.This is a handy checklist that will also help you carry out your checks correctly.

You can also use this online tool to check whether a document allows someone to work in the UK, and what a right to work check involves for that particular document. 


Checking a job applicant’s right to work


We hope this blog makes the right to work checking process easier for your organisation.

If you need more information, check out the government’s employer guidance or get in contact with us – we’re always happy to help.