The checks must be carried out for all new recruits before they start working for you.
If the new recruit has a British passport, or another document that grants an unrestricted right to work in the United Kingdom for an indefinite period, then a copy of the whole document should be taken (that means both the front and back cover of a passport, for instance) and kept on file.
If the new recruit can only demonstrate a limited right to work in the UK for a restricted period, then copies must be taken and filed and then checked at least every 12 months to ensure that the permission to work has not expired.
Don’t worry; you’re not expected to be an expert in identifying forged documents. However, the onus is on you to take reasonable steps to check that a document is genuine and satisfy yourself that the person presenting it is both the rightful holder and allowed to do the type of work you are offering.
If you have carried out these checks and found that a person is not allowed to work, then you are entitled to refuse employment.
If your business is caught inadvertently employing illegal workers because of failing to carry out these checks then it could be liable to a fine of £10,000 per illegal worker. Not carrying out the checks could also jeopardise your business’ ability to employ skilled overseas workers, thereby denying it access to the global talent pool.
This article was first published by London Chamber of Commerce in May 2013.