Right to Work Checks – What, Why, When?

02/01/2024Zara James

Right to Work Checks

Preventing illegal working on construction sites

What is a right to work check?

A right to work check determines whether an individual has the right to work in the UK.


If a right to work check is not carried out or not done correctly according to guidelines, this risks imprisonment and/or fines of up to £20,000 for each illegal individual. 


Why are right to work checks important?

Without a right to work check, illegal working in the UK can lead to:


  • Vulnerable individuals being exploited
  • Undercutting of compliant businesses
  • Negatively impacting wages of lawful workers
  • Tax evasion
  • Breach of the national minimum wage
  • Exploitative working


What does the law say?

The law preventing illegal working is set out in Sections 15 to 25 of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 (the 2006 Act), Section 24B of the Immigration Act 1971 and Schedule 6 of the Immigration Act 2016.

Section 15 of the 2006 Act states an employer may be liable for a civil penalty if they employ an individual who does not have the right to do the work. Right to work checks ensure legal compliance. 

What are the penalties?

If a right to work check is not completed, or done correctly according to guidelines, this risks a penalty of up to five years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine of up to £20,000 per illegal individual. 

Who needs a right to work check?

To prevent discrimination, all individuals require a right to work check to ensure they are legally allowed to work in the UK, regardless of race, gender, age, nationality or status of residence. 

If an individual is only allowed to stay in the UK for a certain amount of time, follow-up work checks must be carried out. 


How to do a right to work check?

There are three ways to complete a right to work check. 


  • Manual Right to Work Check


A manual right to work check involves meeting an individual in person to check their physical appearance against their ID and documents provided for the check. The ID and documents need to be verified as genuine and belonging to the individual. They must then be copied clearly and retained for records. Record keeping is critical for right to work compliance. 


  • Digital Right to Work Check


Digital checks can be done remotely via a verified digital identity service provider. This will use Identity Document Validation Technology (IDVT) to check the validity of the documents. These checks can be used for British and Irish citizens who hold a UK or Irish passport card. A visual follow-up check must then be done when the individual first reports for work. Documentation and right to work checks must be copied and safely retained for records.


  • Home Office Online Right to Work Checks


An online check can be done using the Home Office online service if the individual has one of the following documentation:


  • Biometric residence permit (BRP)
  • Biometric residence card (BRC)
  • Pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme
  • Frontier Worker Permit (FWP)


The Home Office online check requires an individual to obtain a share code using their immigration details. This share code allows the individual’s data (including a photograph) to be viewed via the online service. The photograph must be checked against the individual presenting themselves for work, either in person or via video call. Again, all evidence of the right to work check must be documented and stored securely. 


When should a right to work check be done?

A right to work check should be done at the job offer stage or before engaging with self-employed subcontractors. Failure to do so could lead to you hiring illegal individuals. This may lead to a penalty of up to five years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine of up to £20,000 per illegal individual. 


How can Indigo help?

Indigo provides right to work checks on our secure online platform. We check individuals’ photographs via a selfie and their ID documents are submitted directly to the platform. The process is quick and simple for the individual to complete. A pass or fail result is then provided to the contractor after each right to work check is carried out. 


Documentation and proof of right to work checks are stored by Indigo in a safe and secure online location, which can be accessed 24/7. 


If a follow up check is required, Indigo will request this directly from the individual. 


This saves contractors time, admin and money, as well as assurance that important right to work checks are carried out to avoid hefty fines and/or imprisonment


Please get in touch for a free Business Compliance Health Check if this is something you think Indigo can help you with. 


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