Posted on by Jessica Peaty

Employer Guide – Right to Work Documents

The government has placed increasing focus on illegal workers in the UK over recent years, hiking up fines for businesses that fail to check an employee’s right to work. With this in mind, it makes sense to have a fool proof system in place to safeguard against such costly errors.

Ultimately, immigration law and statutory code state that it’s an employer’s duty to check an individual’s right to work. Failure to do so doesn’t just put companies at risk of a fine, it can also have a significant impact on its reputation.

So the question is, what do organisations need to be aware of when it comes to this potential issue?

A costly mistake

It’s been reported that UK businesses shelled out a huge £10.8m in 2013 to cover illegal worker fines. In May 2014, the government increased the maximum penalty from £10,000 to £20,000 in an attempt to encourage companies to follow procedure.

Historically, many of these fines remained uncollected, but as the government clamp down even further on illegal workers in line with the Immigration Bill, planned raids on businesses are becoming a reality. This set of circumstances has meant that there’s a pressing need to implement robust checks as routine.

The essential checklist

First and foremost, every business should have a hiring process that includes inspecting a new employee’s right to work.

The official, government advice is that organisations must check the following before hiring an individual:

1. Original documents proving their right to work. Beware of photocopies, ensure no changes have been made to the paperwork, and if in doubt, contact the Home Office to verify that the applicant is permitted to work in the UK.

2. These documents must be validated while the applicant is with you. That way, you can be sure that their physical appearance matches that on the documentation.

3. You must make a full record of the date of each check, and save copies of all the documentation in a safe place.

When it comes to retaining these records, the advice is to keep them throughout the duration of the individual’s employment, plus an extra two years beyond that. So, don’t be tempted to clear out an employee’s right to work documents as soon as they step out the door.

How HR software can help

Many of the problems businesses face during this process are down to a lack of procedure, or disparate filing sources. These two factors can quickly cause untold damage if the government knocks on the door, asking to see proof of an employee’s right to work.

HR software provides a secure way of ensuring that documentation for each employee has been ticked off the checklist, and saved correctly.

Storing all documents in one place, with unlimited cloud capacity is just one of the big benefits. It saves physical storage space in the office. It also means that all information is a click away, easy to find and safe. This can also be done without having to scan documents using Selima HR – when filling in a new starter form using a tablet; it’s as easy as taking a photograph of the documentation and uploading straight into HR.

Selima HR goes that extra step to remind HR teams and managers to gather each critical piece of information during the hiring process, asking for critical pieces of documentation before allowing you to add new starters – a reminder can also make you aware if a passport number is one that has already been used. When a new starter’s nationality is entered into the system, you will see different prompts, depending on the country of origin, which can help guide you on which key pieces of information you need to collect from your new employee.

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This neatly gets around the problem of human error in forgetting to collect, and record key documentation.


The most important thing to remember as an employer, is that you have a legal obligation to thoroughly check, and record all documents relating to an employee’s right to work. To ensure all these vital checks are taking place effectively, you need to have a set protocol within the hiring process to protect you and the business.

Through HR software, this can be achieved, negating the issues around human error, and disparate filing systems. That way, you can be sure that you have covered everything expected by law, and have clear records to back up each employee’s right to work.

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