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Legal & Financial

Eligibility to work in the United Kingdom

Last updated: 10 May 2022

Twelve per cent of companies questioned in a recent opinion poll said they employed workers from new EU states, a rise of 5% in the last year, according to figures recently published by the employment agency Manpower. With these figures set to rise further, it is crucial that employers verify who is eligible to work in the UK before employment begins.

You can ask to see certain documents to ensure you are not employing people illegally; you must keep copies of these documents and take reasonable steps to ensure the documents relate to the person in question.

A British passport, or a passport from another country endorsed to show a right of abode in the UK will count as confirmation of eligibility. Although a passport or identity card of a European Economic area country or from Switzerland is also proof, the nationals of eight of the new EU member states – the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland Slovenia and Slovakia also must register with the Home Office’s worker registration scheme. (The EEA consists of the EU countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.) It is your duty as an employer to check that nationals from the eight new member states have actually registered within one month of starting work.

The Manpower survey of 2,191 UK companies shows that most workers from the accession states are being employed in hotels and restaurants, with one in four companies taking on staff from the new EU countries in this sector. The construction sector is the second biggest source of employment for such workers, with 12% of building firms taking on staff from the accession states.

Of those firms taking on staff from the new EU countries, 82% hired between one and ten workers. Five per cent of employees took on between 21 and 59 staff compared to 1% a year ago. Most of these workers are employed in the east of England, surprisingly outstripping London as the top employment region for such workers.

Other proof of eligibility to work in the UK could be a passport or other travel document endorsed to show the holder is allowed to stay in the UK and do the type of work you are offering, if they do not have a work permit. A UK residence permit issued to an EEA or Swiss nation is also sufficient to prove a new recruit’s eligibility to work in the UK.

Asylum seekers need an asylum application registration card stating the holder is allowed to take employment.

All the above documents are sufficient proof to work in the UK. If an employee offers a document stating their name and National Insurance number – for example a P45 or P60, National Insurance card or letter from a Government agency, this will only count as proof if presented together with one of the following:

  • full birth certificate issued in the UK, or a birth certificate issued in the Channel Islands, Isle of Man or Ireland
  • certificate of registration or naturalisation as a British citizen
  • Home Office letter or Immigration Status Document indicating a right to stay and work in the UK

If a prospective employee offers a work permit issued by Work Permits UK, then this is can be taken as evidence of eligibility if it is presented with a passport, travel document or Home Office letter showing the holder is able to stay in the UK and take up the work in question.

Contact the Home Office for a complete list of the documents you can request as proof, as well as information on all matters relating to immigration and permission to stay.

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