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Members of Parliament sometimes receive enquiries from constituents about employers’ duties to conduct ‘right to work’ checks.

Employers have legal responsibilities to prevent illegal working. In order to comply with these, they may require employees to provide documentary evidence of their entitlement to work in the UK (including British citizens). Employers are required to retain copies of these documents in order to avoid the risk of incurring sanctions under prevention of illegal working legislation. The maximum fine for employers who do not comply with their duties is £20,000 per illegal worker. Those who “knowingly” employ an illegal worker are liable to up to two years’ imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.

Some constituents, such as British citizens who do not have a passport, may struggle to provide the specific types of documentation needed to demonstrate their entitlement to work in the UK.

This note provides an overview of the relevant legislation and Home Office policy guidance, and recent scrutiny of enforcement action taken by the Home Office against illegal employment.

It does not cover employers’ duties to adhere to the transitional restrictions on employing workers from EU accession states (which currently only apply to Croatian nationals). These are discussed in Library Standard Note: SN06686 Croatian nationals’ rights to live and work in the UK after joining the EU.

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