As right-to-work fines triple is it time to check your right-to-work processes?

Amid growing political tussle, the UK tripled right-to-work fines, pushing HR to the front of a contentious issue. Does your employment vetting keep you safe?

Petru Tinca • 
As right-to-work fines triple is it time to check your right-to-work processes?

With a general election looming and the party conference season upon us, things are heating up in the political environment.

We are seeing a range of headline-grabbing announcements and policy changes from all sides of the political spectrum, some of which will no doubt drip down to HR Managers and employers via subsequent employment law changes.

Immigration and deterring small boats from our shores have been a hot topic for some time now and are beginning to impact employment law around the area of illegal working and right-to-work checks. This is because the government views illegal work as a big pull factor for migrants crossing the channel, (as smugglers use the promise of jobs as an incentive). 

As a result of this, in August this year, the UK government announced that they were tripling fines for employers who allow illegal immigrants to work for them. This is the biggest increase in fines since 2004 so HR Managers and employers should take heed of these figures:

  • The civil penalty for a first breach will increase from £15,000 to £45,000.
  • The civil penalty for repeated breaches will rise from £20,000 to £60,000.

Of course, employers and HR managers have long held responsibility for doing right-to-work checks, but with the number of potential illegal workers rising and fines tripling the stakes have been raised. As a result, employment gatekeepers and HR managers now find themselves near the frontline of this controversial political issue.

Have you reviewed your right-to-work check processes since February 2023?

Given the precarious environment, HR managers should triple-check their right-to-work onboarding procedures, not just because of the tripling of fines but because of reports suggesting that the government has increased immigration enforcement by 50% this year versus last year. It is now at its highest level since 2019.

We know that most of you have been doing right-to-work checks for some time. Nonetheless, for good measure given the current climate, (and for the benefit of those who may be new to this),  we felt duty-bound to remind our readers of the  4 key aspects of the right-to-work check process so nothing is taken for granted by employers when hiring new staff.

  1. Conduct right-to-work checks on all new hires before employing them in line with government Guidance
  2. Conduct follow-up checks on employees whose permission to be in the UK is time-limited.
  3. Retain any copies of the right-to-work documents that were checked, including time stamps and signatories
  4. Ensure those who perform right-to-work checks are fully trained

It’s worth revisiting the government’s ‘Employers guide to right-to-work checks to see what’s new, especially if you haven’t been there since February 2023 when it was last updated.

On page 6, they offer a useful quick-fire summary of the most significant changes that relate to:

  • Clarification for employers on the use of Identity Document Validation Technology (IDVT)

and Identity Service Providers (IDSPs) to support manual document-based and Home Office online checking service right-to-work checks.

  • The use of “Reusable Identities” for checks involving the use of IDSPs
  • End of the COVID-19 temporary adjusted checks on 30 September 2022.
  • Changes to enable some individuals with an outstanding, in-time application for

permission to stay in the UK, or an appeal, or administrative review (3C leave) to prove their right to work using the Home Office online checking service.

  • Confirmation that Re-Admission to the UK (RUK) endorsements are an acceptable document for right-to-work checks
  • Information on sponsored work and student categories
  • Information on short-dated Biometric Residence Permits

Are you using appropriate tech to streamline right-to-work processes and eliminate errors?

Technology is evolving and can play a big part in streamlining, quality-assuring, and ensuring staff adhere to your documented right-to-work procedures. Are you using the most appropriate HR software in your right-to-work processes? There are two main areas where technology can make a difference.

  1. Ensuring that employees who perform right-to-work checks are fully trained.

For example, it is an employer’s responsibility to ensure that those employees who perform right-to-work checks are trained and up to date with regulations. Keeping track of this training can be a challenge, particularly in larger organisations, or when you have new starters.

By using HR software with basic learning management system functionality you can prepare and automatically deliver mandatory right-to-work check training documents to relevant workers and track the completion of this mandatory training via electronic signatures and/or quizzes.

Technology can enable you to effortlessly quality-assure your training process and have peace of mind that staff are up to date with the latest procedures around right-to-work checks.

  1. Ensuring that right-to-work document management procedures are followed.

Also, document management is a crucial part of the complicated and elongated right-to-work check process as employers must retain all evidence of all checks and repeat checks and the copies should be kept securely for the duration of the person’s employment, and for two years after, following which they must be destroyed.

Employers must be able to produce such documents on demand and show evidence of the date on which checks and any follow-up checks were carried out. Given the complexity of this process, there is a big margin for administrative errors. It is prudent therefore for the right-to-work document management process to be carried out with the support of appropriate HR software with advanced document management functionality that enables you to store, search, time-stamp documents, accept e-signatures, and incorporate reminders for repeat checks and data deletion in line with GDPR.

Remember that SenseHR allows unlimited HR document storage for your team, complete with e-signatures and read receipts to ensure people are reading and signing policies, contracts and other documents.

With right-to-work fines tripling and government enforcement activity in the area of illegal working doubling it is time to review your right-to-work process because a mistake today is far more costly than it was a year ago.