As an employer, you need to ensure that each prospective worker is eligible to work in the UK before their employment commences. By doing this, you will establish a 'statutory excuse' against being liable to pay a fine (known as a 'civil penalty') for employing an illegal worker.
You should make the necessary checks even if you think a potential worker has the right to work in the UK. For more information, see our guide on employing migrants - an overview.
An employer is defined as a person who employs an individual under a contract of employment.
This can be a contract of service or an apprenticeship. The contract can be expressed either orally or in writing. See our guide on the employment contract.
The UK Border Agency (UKBA) publishes two lists - List A and List B - of documents which can demonstrate someone's right to work in the UK.
For you to have a statutory excuse against liability for a civil penalty, your prospective worker must provide you with an original version of one of the specified documents from List A, or a specified combination of two documents from List B.
You should ask them to provide the documents before they start work, eg you could ask:
Once the worker has presented you with the necessary document(s), you must:
Note that you are not expected to be an expert on forged documents. All you need to do is conduct simple - but careful - visual checks without the need for training or technological aids, to satisfy yourself that the document(s) presented are genuine, and relate to the person presenting them.
If you are not sure whether or not a document is valid, call the UKBA Sponsorship and Employers' Helpline on Tel 0300 123 4699.
If the worker provides a document or documents from List B, you must repeat the checks at least once every 12 months to retain the excuse until they provide a specified document or documents from List A, or they leave your employment.
In order to avoid racial discrimination, you should check all applicants' right to work in the UK - regardless of their race, ethnic or national origin, colour or (apparent) nationality.
If you are found to be employing illegal migrant workers and you have not established a statutory excuse, you may have to pay a civil penalty of up to £10,000 per illegal migrant worker.
However, if you know that you are employing a person who is not permitted to work, you will not be entitled to the excuse.
You could also be prosecuted for the offence of knowingly employing an illegal migrant worker. If you are convicted of this offence, you could face an unlimited fine and/or a prison sentence of up to two years. You can find guidance on preventing illegal working on the UKBA website.
If you suspect that a job applicant is in the UK illegally or has no right to work in the UK, you should report them by sending an email to [email protected].
0300 123 4699
UK Border Agency