Better Business: How to avoid employing illegal workers

The maximum fine for employing an illegal worker has doubled to £20,000 under new Home Office rules. People who knowingly employ an illegal worker can also receive jail sentences.

As an employer it is your responsibility to check an applicant’s right to work in the UK before you employ them – new Home Office measures should help make this easier.

  • Obtain correct original documents from the applicant – a list of acceptable documents can be found at the Home Office website
  • Use the new Home Office online tool to more easily check right to work documents at
  • Check the documents are originals, genuine and refer to the applicant
  • Dates for the applicants’ right to work in the UK should not have expired
  • Check photos look like the applicant and are the same across documents
  • Dates of birth should also be the same on all documents
  • If documents give different names, there should be supporting material explaining this, e.g. marriage or divorce certificates
  • Documents should show the applicant has permission to do the type of work you are offering, including limits on hours
  • All documents should be current, apart from if issued to national of the UK, European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland, or permanent residence cards issued to family members of EEA nationals
  • Make full copies that can’t be changed (e.g. photocopy or scan) of all documents
  • Keep these copies during the worker’s employment and for two years after they finish employment
  • Record the date you made the checks
  • For migrant students, keep a record of their term and vacation times
  • If you need more help checking an applicant’s right to work or to report an applicant who refuses to produce documents, call the Home Office helpline on 0300 123 4699 or email

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