Checking potential employees can legally work in UK.

Recently I have noticed a lot of press coverage about a large company that were suspected of employing people working illegally. We are a small employer but should we be doing anything to ensure our workers are legally entitled to work in the UK or does this law only apply to big employers?
All employers may need to run certain checks on job applicants, but they should always make sure that potential new employees are allowed to legally work in the UK. As an employer you must check that job applicants are allowed to work in the UK before you employ them.

You must check that a job applicant is allowed to work for you in the UK before you employ them.

  1. 1. You must see the applicant’s original documents
  2. 2. You must check that the documents are valid with the applicant present.
  3. 3. You must make and keep copies of the documents and record the date you made the check.


You could face a civil penalty of up to £20,000 if you employ an illegal worker and haven’t carried out a correct right to work check. You should carry out these checks on all employees and keep evidence show you can evidence that you checked an employee’s right to work in the UK.

You must not discriminate against anyone because of their race. If you only carry out checks on people who you believe are not British citizens, for example, on the basis of their colour, or ethnic or national origins, you could find yourselves accused of discrimination and it could be used as evidence against you in proceedings under the Equality Act 2010

It is therefore recommended that you, as an employer, undertake checks on all prospective employees and obtain a statutory excuse as this will protect you from liability for a civil penalty if the person in question is an illegal worker, whilst also demonstrating consistent, transparent and non-discriminatory recruitment practices.

If you are unsure as to how to undertake these check and you subscribe to RML’s legal helpline then please contact the helpline and we will provide assistance.