Out-Law News 1 min. read

Online UK right to work checks now illegal working defence

UK employers can now rely on the result of an online right to work test as a defence against civil penalties should any of their workers later be found to have been working illegally.

The UK's online right to work checking service has been operational since April 2018. However, until now, employers have also been required to request paper documents in order to demonstrate that they have performed the required statutory checks on the right to work status of migrant workers.

Use of the online service is voluntary for both employers and individuals. Migrant workers may continue to opt to use the existing document checking service to demonstrate their right to work in the UK, and will have to authorise current or prospective employers before information about their immigration status can be accessed online.

Immigration law expert Louise Shaw of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said that most employers "will welcome the option of what should be a straightforward, online process".

"It is, however, essential that employers do undertake the process correctly and make sure that they comply with the exact record-keeping requirements as directed by the Home Office," she said. "Following the correct procedure can help provide an employer with a full defence against a potential £20,000 civil penalty for employing an illegal worker. It is therefore very much in the interest of employers that they implement the new process correctly."

Home Office rules require employers to retain clear records of workers' right to work in the UK in either electronic form or hard copy, for the duration of the employment and for a period of two years afterwards.

The online service can be used in respect of non-EEA nationals who hold biometric residence permits or cards, and EEA nationals who have been granted 'settled status' or pre-settled status under the scheme available to those wishing to retain their right to live and work in the UK once it leaves the EU. EEA nationals who have not yet applied for settled status will still be required to provide documentary proof of their right to work in the UK, for example by way of a national passport.

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