What are the Consequences of Inadequate Right to Work Checks?

Posted on September 16, 2022
Written by Natalie Davies

Right To Work

Every UK employer has a legal obligation to carry out Right to Work checks on prospective employees to prevent illegal working in the UK. Guidance issued by the Home Office expects employers to carefully and systematically verify each employee’s identity and their right to work in the country. 

In this article, we take a closer look at the common mistakes employers make and the penalties involved in non-compliance.

What are the Common Mistakes Employers Make in Conducting RTW Checks?

Employers often fail to ensure that the correct Right To Work documents are successfully obtained and checked. What’s more, much of the guidance on the Gov.uk website about which documents are acceptable can get confusing (especially for non-British or Irish citizens) – particularly when carrying out manual right to work checks. 

With tables of different lists of acceptable documents, a need to understand immigration status definitions and be able to spot fraudulent documents; it’s clear that the pressure on HR teams when it comes to verifying an individual’s right to work can get incredibly stressful. 

Additionally, not only are employers expected to carry out Right to Work checks on individuals before the start of employment, but there is also an ongoing duty for the employer to ensure that the up-to-date documents are securely held on each employee’s HR record for the entirety of their employment, and for two years afterwards. 

Without a consistent approach to right to work checks, employers are at risk of unconscious bias during the recruitment process, ultimately resulting in discrimination against employees where a more thorough checking process may be required. 

The Penalties for Non-Compliance

In the year ending December 2021, fines totalling £1.7m were issued to businesses across the United Kingdom found to be employing illegal workers. With the most penalties issued in the South East and London, the most illegal workers were found in the Midlands and Eastern England. 

Fines can be issued if you employ someone without carrying out the correct checks, or the checks weren’t carried out properly. These fines can be as much as £20,000 for each illegal work. 

For the most serious cases, where employers are effectively condoning illegal workers in their business, and trying to hide this from the authorities you can be sent to jail for up to five years and receive an unlimited fine if you know or had ‘reasonable cause to believe’ that you employed someone who doesn’t have the right to work in the UK.

This includes, for example, if you had any reason to believe that: 

  • They did not have leave (permission) to enter or remain in the UK 
  • Their leave had expired 
  • They were not allowed to do certain types of work 
  • Their papers were incorrect or false

How Can Right To Work Technology Help Employers Achieve Compliance?

Using Right to Work software, such as the WorkingStatus application from Northrow, will minimise your risk of non-compliance by delivering the automation of time-consuming tasks which can be vulnerable to human error.

To ensure you continue to meet changing Right to Work legislation, modern software is designed to be up-to-date with all of the latest immigration laws and requirements so you can be confident that you are compliant 24/7.

Our software performs comprehensive identity and document verification, giving you real-time and actionable data on who you can legally hire, whilst ensuring compliance with the latest Home Office regulation.