Under the prevention of illegal working regime in the UK, all employers must conduct prescribed right to work checks on all employees. In some cases, they may even need to carry out a follow-up check for those with a time-limited right to be in the UK. However, this has never been easier with the use of share codes to access the online right to work checking service.
The following guide for employers shows how to use share codes for compliant right to work checks, as well as the record-keeping requirements once a check has been completed.
What is a right to work check share code?
A right to work check share code is an alphanumeric code provided by certain new-starters, or existing employees where a follow-up check is required, that provides an employer with access to that person’s online record stored via the right to work checking service. This is a Home Office service that allows overseas nationals to access their immigration status online, and to provide a share code to employers to prove their right to work in the UK.
Using a share code, this will allow the employer to check the details of a candidate’s right to work in the UK, where the information is provided in real time directly from Home Office systems. This will include the types of work that a person is allowed to do and for how long they can work, if there is a time limit. In this way, the employer can verify that the individual has the right to work in the UK and to undertake the work on offer. The same service can again be used at a later date to conduct any follow-up check, where applicable.
A migrant worker does not have to provide a share code for employers to check their right to work online and should not be penalised in any way for failing to do so, provided it is still possible to conduct a manual right to work check.
Who can get a share code?
The quickest and simplest way to conduct a right to work check is to ask any prospective or existing employee for a share code for employers. The employer will be able to access and view their immigration status online. The share code has been created with the aim to speed up the process of validating an overseas employee’s rights to UK employers.
However, not everyone is able to use this process.
The online checking service only supports right to work checks in respect of migrant workers holding certain status, for example, those with status under the EU Settlement Scheme or those whose immigration status is held solely in digital format. This includes anyone with an E-visa, or those with a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP), Biometric Residence Card (BRC) or a Frontier Worker Permit (FWP).
Under Home Office guidance issued in March 2023, eVisa holders with statutory immigration permission can now provide their employer with a share code to verify their right to work, provided they are either making an in-country eVisa application to remain in the UK using the UK Immigration: ID Check app; they do not have settled or pre settled status or have a frontier worker permit; their application application was made after 26 January 2023 and before the expiry of their existing immigration permission; and they are currently awaiting a decision on their application, administrative review or appeal.
In these circumstances, when the employee provides the share code, the employer will be able to rely on a statutory excuse for six months after the date of the online check. This removes the need to use the Home Office Employer Checking Service.
Follow up checks will be required in the usual way in advance of visa expiry.
How to conduct Right to Work checks using share codes
Having been given permission by a prospective or existing employee to access and view their Home Office record, and having been provided with a valid share code, the process to conduct complaint checks using a share code for employers is as follows:
- Go to the Home Office right to work checking service at GOV.UK
- Go to the ‘View a job applicant’s right to work details’, not the worker’s section
- Input the 9-character alphanumeric code, together with the individual’s date of birth
- Check that the online photograph matches the individual in question.
Provided the individual has the right to work in the UK, and do the work on offer, the employer can go on to employ them or continue to employ them.
The share code is created when the person gives their employer permission to view their status online using the ‘Prove your right to work to an employer’ section of the online right to work checking service at GOV.UK. To create a ‘share code’ a migrant worker will need their BRP or BRC number, or their passport or national identity card number.
The employee can either provide the share code directly to the employer, or ask for this to be sent to them through the government service, where the employer will receive an email from firstname.lastname@example.org. The share code will be valid for 90 days and can be used as many times as necessary during that time. If the code has expired, or the individual has used a code generated by a different service, such as the right to rent service, the employer must ask them to resend a new right to work share code. It is also not sufficient to view the details provided by the employee on the migrant part of the service.
What are the right to work record-keeping requirements?
Once the online right to work check has been conducted using the share code checker, the employer must retain evidence of that check. This means printing out or saving the profile page of the employee in question, including their photo and date when the check was undertaken. The employer will be given the option of printing the profile page or saving it as a PDF or HTML file. The employer must then securely store either an electronic or hard copy of the response provided for as long as that person is in their employment, plus an extra 2 years afterwards. The file must then be securely destroyed.
Is the share code checker the only way to conduct a check?
The share code checker using the online right to work checking service is one of several ways in which a right to work check can be conducted, although much will depend on the nationality of the employee in question. In some cases, where the employee holds only digital status, the online share code checker may be the only option available, for example, BRP, BRC and FWP-holders will only be permitted to prove their right to work through the Home Office online service. In other cases, an online check may not be available for the employee or the employee may not have provided a share code for employers.
Other ways of conducting a right to work check include:
- a manual document-based check
- using the Employer Checking Service (ECS)
- a digital right to work check.
A manual check
When conducting a manual right to work check, the employer will need to request certain documents from the prospective or existing employee, either from List A or B of acceptable documents. List A documents will show a permanent right to work in the UK, whilst List B documents will show a temporary right to work in the UK. These can be found at GOV.UK.
The documents provided by the employee must be originals, and must be checked over with the individual present. Provided that the person is the rightful holder of the document(s), they are permitted to do the type of work on offer, the date for their right to work in the UK has not expired and the document(s) appear genuine, the employer can go on to employ them or continue to employ them.
The temporary adjustments to manual right to work checks introduced during the pandemic, where the validity of documents could be checked by the employer in the presence of the holder via live video link, ended on 30 September 2022. This means that, when conducting a manual check, the employer must have both the document(s) in their physical possession, with the overseas national present at the same time.
The employer will need to make and retain copies in a format that cannot be manually altered. They must also record the date of the check, and securely store this evidence for at least 2 years after that person has stopped working for them.
An ECS check
Where an overseas national has an outstanding Home Office application made prior to their previous leave expiring, or an outstanding review or appeal of a Home Office decision, it may not be possible in some cases to conduct either an online or manual right to work check. If the employer is reasonably satisfied that this is the case, they can instead request a positive verification notice from what is known as the Employer Checking Service (ECS).
To request an ECS check, the employer will need to provide details of their business, the individual’s personal details and job title, as well as the Home Office reference number or case ID. If the person is permitted to work in the UK, the employer should receive a positive verification notice confirming this, which they will need to retain for their records.
For prospective employees, the employer must delay their start date until they are in receipt of confirmation from the Home Office of that person’s right to work. For existing employees applying to extend their permission to stay in the UK, in most cases they should be able to carry on working pending any decision on their application, provided that they submitted their application prior to expiry of their last grant of leave.
A digital right to work check
A digital right to work check is where the employer uses identity document validation technology (IDVT) via the services of an identity service provider (IDSP). However, this type of check is limited to checks on British and Irish citizens with a valid passport.
Even though an employer can delegate elements of the checking process to IDSPs, the responsibility for right to work checks remains with the employer. This means that, before employment commences, the employer must obtain a copy of the IDVT identity check from the IDSP, plus the document checked, so as to satisfy themselves to a reasonable belief that their chosen provider has completed the check correctly in the prescribed manner, as well as satisfying themselves that the biographic details and photograph on the IDVT identity check are consistent with the individual presenting themselves for work.
The employer should also securely retain the data provided by the IDSP, either in electronic format or by way of hard copy, for the duration of employment, plus two years.
Penalties for breaching right to work rules
Every UK employer has a duty to prevent illegal working, although this can usually be discharged by conducting a simple online right to work check using a share code for employers. In this way, before taking someone on, an employer can ensure that their new recruit is not disqualified from working in the UK, or from undertaking the work on offer, by reason of their immigration status. The employer can then conduct a follow-up check, at a later date, where any right to work in the UK is time limited.
If an employer fails to carry out a prescribed right to work check, or a follow-up check where required, the consequences can be serious. This is because if an overseas national is later found to be working illegally, it is only by having conducted a right to work check that the employer will have a statutory excuse against any civil penalty of £20,000 per worker.
More seriously, if an employer knows or has reasonable cause to believe that an individual does not have permission to work in the UK, or to do the work on offer, and they employ them anyway, they may be prosecuted. Employing illegal migrants in the UK is punishable by up to 5 years in prison, an unlimited fine, or both. Employing illegal workers can also result in the loss of the employer’s sponsor licence, the loss of those migrant employees with a legitimate right to work in the UK and serious damage to the employer-brand.
DavidsonMorris’ business immigration specialists provide guidance to employers on all aspects of Right to Work compliance, including correct usage of share codes. For expert advice, contact us.
Right to work share code FAQs
What is share code for right to work?
A share code is a 9-character alphanumerical code that a job applicant can give to an employer to enable them to verify that the individual has the right to work in the UK and undertake the work on offer.
How do I get a UK share code?
To obtain a UK share code to prove your right to work in the UK, you must go to the ‘Prove your right to work to an employer’ section of the online right to work checking service at GOV.UK.
What is a HMRC share code?
The HMRC share code refers to the code that can be used by overseas nationals to prove their right to work and rent in the UK, where the code will enable employers or landlords to view that person’s immigration status.
What is share code?
A share code is a code that can be given to an employer by a prospective new recruit to prove their right to work in the UK, and undertake the work on offer, using the Home Office online checking service.
Last updated: 28 February 2023