How to avoid an employers worst nightmare

Optimus Law

There are more people in jobs than ever before in the UK. If you run a business and have employees, that means two things: rising wages and a dwindling pool of talent. Throw in a bit of Brexit and you might find yourself struggling to pin down new hires as your business grows. And, ‘despite Brexit’, the UK economy is currently growing faster than those of Germany or France. So, if you’re in a mad dash to fill vacancies, here are a few pointers for how to avoid your worst nightmare – accidentally hiring an illegal worker. `

The government guidance on Right to Work legislation was updated in January 2019, so when you’ve got a bit more time, it’s worth downloading and reading about the changes in more detail here. If, like most bosses, you’re in a hurry, carry on reading because here is what you really need to know.

You can now carry out a right to work check online. This makes it easier, faster, cheaper and of course it means you have less of an excuse if the government comes knocking. The authorities have also made it easier to deal with the paperwork side of things: you no longer have to provide the individual’s full (long) birth certificate. Instead, a short or long UK birth certificate are both acceptable documents to demonstrate a right to work, in combination with an appropriately documented national insurance number.

It may save you money

It is worth reminding yourself why it’s a good thing to do the checks. Aside from preventing illegal working (which leaves people vulnerable to abuse, undercutting of salaries, tax evasion and slavery), conducting the checks gives you a ‘statutory excuse’ in the unlikely event that you unwittingly hire somebody who doesn’t have the right to work. Basically, its means you won’t get fined – but only if you can show that you have carried out the right to work checks as required.

Employers, including their Human Resource staff and those staff within the same business with delegated responsibility for the recruitment and employment of individuals, should be familiar with the right to work system and the obvious benefit of carrying out the checks.


If you make the checks, you can avoid a load of hassle. If illegal workers are removed from your business, it may disrupt your operations and result in reputational damage. There could be adverse impacts on your health and safety and safeguarding obligations, as well as the potential invalidation of your insurance if the identity, qualifications and skill levels of your workers are not as claimed. Accordingly, you may wish to check that your contractors conduct the correct right to work checks on people they employ.

If you hire an illegal worker (knowingly or otherwise) and have not carried out the right to work checks, you’re likely to face a penalty of up to £20,000 per illegal worker. In serious cases, you could go to jail for five years, be handed an unlimited fine, lose your directorship, have your earnings seized and various licences revoked. By anybody’s book, that’s a worst nightmare.

Join us for an interactive breakfast workshop on 9 April 2019 from 08:30 -11:00am to learn about the importance of Right to Work, the implications on employers post-Brexit and how to protect your organisation from a civil penalty of up to £20,000 per employee.

Azeem Rashid
Optimus Law