Eligibility to work in the UK

Why is this important?

The University is legally responsible for ensuring that every employee, casual worker, and migrant visitor (however brief their visit) is properly entitled to work in, and/or participate in the activities of the University. You should not make assumptions about a person’s right to work in the UK on the basis of their background, appearance, accent or name. Under no account should someone start work, regardless of their background, until eligibility to work has been completely established.

What are the consequences of non-compliance?

Penalties for non-compliance are potentially severe; they include:

  • On-the-spot fines against the University for each illegal migrant;
  • Potential disciplinary action taken against anyone recruiting someone who had no eligibility to work and permitting them to start;
  • Downgrading or withdrawal of our sponsor licence, with the potential consequence that all sponsored migrants (staff and students) would have to leave the University and the UK; and
  • Prison sentences for employers if illegal migrant workers are employed knowingly.

Although the University has separate licences for sponsoring staff and students, any breach of the conditions for one licence could nonetheless draw attention to the other. Any issues around compliance with one licence could impact on both.

How is this enforced?

The government’s UK Visas and Immigration department undertakes visits to check our compliance with the relevant legislation, policies and regulations. These visits can be unannounced. The University also conducts its own internal audits and monitors all appointments as well as claims made by hourly-paid staff. The University is also under a legal duty as a licenced sponsor, to proactively inform the UKVI about any breaches in licence compliance.

How do we ensure that we keep the University compliant?

Who is eligible to work in the UK?

From 1 January 2021, all workers from outside the UK (apart from Irish citizens) need a visa to work in the UK. A range of visas are available, and if you receive a query from a job applicant we recommend they check their personal eligibility on the Gov.UK website. If they do not have the right to work in the UK in their own right, and depending on the nature of the role, we may be able to issue a Certificate of Sponsorship to support their application under Skilled worker route of the Points Based System.

EU citizens already living in the UK by 31 December 2020 and their families do not have to get a visa to work in the UK as long as they have applied to the EU Settlement Scheme, and have until 30 June 2021 to do so. Once they are successful in obtaining a Settled or Pre-Settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, they will be able to remain, work and study in the UK and claim the same benefits as UK citizens permanently or for a maximum of five years depending on the type of their status. Irish citizens do not need to apply to the scheme.

Should I reject job applications from candidates who are not eligible to work?

You should never reject a candidate on the grounds that they do not appear to hold the right to work in the UK at the shortlisting stage. Case law has established that this could potentially amount to indirect discrimination on the grounds of national origin. Those currently without right to work may be able to obtain it through a variety of means. You should follow the normal recruitment and selection procedures and produce your shortlist by assessing all candidates against your essential and desirable criteria in your person specification. The only stage of the recruitment process where right to work can be considered is at the final appointment stage.

A member of my team has a query about their right to work that I can’t answer. How can I help them?

Guidance for staff is available - see Passports, visas and eligibility to work.

Who can I speak to for more information?

For anything not covered in these pages, please contact the HR recruitment team.