Checking eligibility to work in Scotland

As an employer in Scotland you must check a person’s eligibility to work in the United Kingdom (UK) before you employ them to work for your organisation. Do not make assumptions about a person’s eligibility to work in the UK.

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Right to Work Checks

If you conduct a right to work check in line with the requirements, you will have a statutory excuse against liability for a civil penalty in the event you are found to have unknowingly employed someone who is an illegal worker. This means that if UKVI find that you have unknowingly employed someone who does not have the right to do the work in question, but you have correctly conducted right to work checks as required, you will not receive a civil penalty for that illegal worker.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Right to work checks were temporarily adjusted due to coronavirus (COVID-19) between March 2020 and August 2021. More information can be found on the GOV.UK website

Check eligibility

There are currently two ways to conduct a right to work check, either through the online right to work service or a hard copy check.

You must obtain copies of the relevant documentation confirming the person’s right to work in the UK prior to them starting to work for you, regardless of their country of origin. Alternatively you may be able to carry out an online check on their right to work.  Further details on this are in the Employer Guidance on Right to Work Checks.

The Home Office has issued a right to work checklist to help with checking eligibility to work. You can ask the person to provide documents specified on one of two lists identified by the Home Office, which can be found in the Employer's Guidance to Right to Work Checks. Documents must be originals (unless an online check is being carried out, which case the employee will provide you with a 'share code' to do the check.); copies will not be accepted.

Once you have obtained the documents, there are a number of steps that an employer should undertake to ensure that the check is carried out correctly. These steps are mentioned below.

Ensuring documents are genuine and relevant

As an employer you must take all reasonable steps to ensure documents provided by the person are genuine and that they relate to the applicant.

You must check:

  • The photo is consistent with the appearance of the applicant or employee.
  • The date of birth is consistent across documents and corresponds with the applicant or employee’s appearance.
  • The document provided is valid and has not expired.
  • Any government endorsements (eg stamps, visas etc.) to ensure the individual is permitted to do the specified type of work.
  • The documents are genuine, not tampered with and belong to the person presenting them (in the case of a hard copy document).
  • In the case of two documents with different names on them, ask for a third document to explain this change. For example, a marriage certificate, divorce decree, statutory declaration of name change etc.

Make copies

Make copies of the documents provided and sign and date them. Retain copies of the documents securely in the employee’s personnel file for the duration of their employment and for at least 2 years after the employment ends. 

In the case of a passport or other travel document, the following parts must be photocopied or scanned:

  • The document’s front cover and any page containing the holder’s personal details. In particular copy any page that provides details of nationality, photograph, date of birth, signature, date of expiry or biometric details.
  • Any page containing UK Government endorsements indicating that the employee has an entitlement to be in the UK and is entitled to do the work in question.
  • All other documents should be copied in their entirety.

In the case of an online right to work check, you should retain a copy of the ‘profile’ page confirming the individual’s right to work. This is the page that includes the individual's photo and date on which the check was conducted. There will be an option to print the profile or save it as a PDF or HTML file. This should be stored securely, either electronically or in hard copy for the time periods mentioned above.

Employer Checking Service

Where your employee cannot provide the documents from List A and B in the guidance, potentially because they have made an application for the Home Office and are waiting for their documents to be returned, you can ask the Home Office to confirm their right to work. The Home Office offer a free checking service for employers and if this confirms the person has a right to work it means that you can employ them for 6 months before carrying out another right to work check (subject to the employee's visa not being rejected in that 6 months).

If you use the Home Office checking service you must keep copies of any correspondence you receive from them.

Full information on the Employer checking Service can be found in the comprehensive guidance,

Unacceptable Documents

Not all documents are acceptable for Right to Work purposes, the full list of documents can be found in the guidance.