If you’ve applied for a job in the UK recently, then it’s likely that you were asked to bring a passport to interview. This is part of the system known as right to work checks. These checks affect everyone, and are all about establishing someone’s legal status in the UK. Although the exact date is still unclear, it looks as if the UK will be leaving the European Union on Halloween. So what does this mean for employer checks?
What are Right to Work Checks?
There are lots of laws in the UK about who can work, and who cannot. If you were born in the UK, have a British passport and have lived here all of your life, then that right is straightforward. Until Brexit, people from other European Union countries have the same rights. Anyone holding an EU passport can move to the UK and get a job. They will be treated in exactly the same way as a UK resident.
People from other parts of the world may or may not have the right to work in the UK. People who are just here for a holiday are usually banned from paid work. Other types of visas have varying conditions. For example, someone on a student visa may be allowed to work part time while they are studying. Someone who is here as the spouse of a skilled worker may not have that automatic right. It’s all very complicated.
Employers can face huge fines if they are found to have illegal workers. The Home Office can and do check up on illegal workers. Therefore, it’s common practice for companies to check up on people early in the interview process. The best way of proving your nationality or right to work is with your passport. Most employers will take a copy for their records. If they are asked about workers in the future, they can prove they have done all that they can. It’s important to remember that this sort of check is not the same as a DBS check. Many roles will require a DBS check, but this is separate from any identity checking.
What happens after Brexit?
After Brexit, everything will have an extra layer of complexity. Nationality checks are not going to go away. However, employers will not be able to employ citizens from the EU in the same way as at present. Currently, employers look for certain stamps in passports to show that the holder has the right to work. After Brexit, they will go through this process for all foreign employees, not just for those from outside the EU. It’s going to be a lot more time consuming. Furthermore, the same fines apply. If employers get it wrong, they risk financial penalties.
Most employers are already checking identities of their staff with right to work checks. This isn’t going to change. There is also a helpline available for employers who need a bit of assistance with looking at passports. Often, the key issue is spotting fakes and forgeries. Employers don’t have to be experts in forged documents. However, staff should know the basics of looking at documents and know how to spot an obvious fake when they see it. Specialists are also available for detailed help if needed.
What if I don’t have a passport?
Most people arriving from overseas will have a passport. If the passport has expired, they may have a biometric residence permit instead. Usually, these documents will be clearly marked with the holder’s status. It should be easy to work out who is allowed to work, and who isn’t. Employers can’t assume that just because someone speaks fluent English, or went to school in the UK, that they have a legal right to employment. So usually, employers will ask everyone for a passport. If you don’t have a passport, or if it’s expired, then there are several options.
Some employers might be happy to accept an expired passport. Even though you can’t use it for travel, it proves your place of birth, nationality and work rights. Others prefer to see your birth certificate, showing your place of work, and the nationalities of your parents. This also confirms nationality. In other circumstances, call the Home Office and ask for assistance.