“Right to Work” checks for employers

Checking a job applicant's right to work

An employer must check that job applicants are allowed to work for them, in the U.K. before employing them.  The check is called a “Right to Work” check, and must be done in a certain way, according to the Immigration (Restrictions on Employment) Order 2007.

An employer can either —

  • check the applicant’s documents in person
  • check the applicant’s right to work online, if the applicant is eligible for such a check, and agrees to it

An employer can face a civil penalty of up to £ 20,000 — under section 15 ↗ of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 — if they employ an illegal worker and they haven’t carried out a proper “Right to Work” check.

An employer cannot be charged a penalty if they employ a British citizen or anyone else who is genuinely allowed to work in the U.K. — even if the employer doesn’t carry out a “Right to Work” check.  The “Right to Work” check, though, stops an employer getting any penalty if it turns out that one of their employees is, after all, illegally working in the U.K.

How a “Right to Work” check can be made

There are currently 4 ways that a “Right to Work” check can be made:

statutory article
Home Office
“Right to Work”
check needed?
Length of
statutory excuse
Online check 4B(1) no for the time that the online check says
“List A” document 3(1)(a) no indefinite (“continuous”)
“Group 1, List B” document 4(1)(a) no for the time that the document says work is allowed
“Group 2, List B” document
(or no suitable document)
4A(1)(a) yes 6 months from the date of the “Positive Verification Notice” which is issued

Statutory codes of practice

Preventing illegal working / Civil penalty scheme

Title In force from
2019 Code of practice PDF Code of practice on preventing illegal working: Civil penalty scheme for employers 28th January 2019
2014 Code of practice PDF Code of practice on preventing illegal working: Civil penalty scheme for employers 16th May 2014
2008 Code of practice PDF Civil Penalties for Employers 29th February 2008

Avoiding discrimination

Title In force from
2014 Code of practice (discrimination) PDF Code of practice for employers: Avoiding unlawful discrimination while preventing illegal working 16th May 2014
2008 Code of practice (discrimination) PDF Guidance for Employers on the Avoidance of Unlawful Discrimination in Employment Practice While Seeking to Prevent Illegal Working 29th February 2008