Last edited 19 Jan 2021

Right to work in the construction industry

Skill shortages, reliance on transient labour and forged identity documents expose the construction industry to the risk of illegal employment.

Legislation in relation to illegal employment is set out in the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006. The Act gives the following definition of the term ‘illegal worker’:

‘…an adult subject to immigration control if:

  1. is invalid,
  2. has ceased to have effect (whether by reason of curtailment, revocation, cancellation, passage of time or otherwise), or
  3. is subject to a condition preventing him from accepting the employment.’

Illegal workers include students with expired visas, students working more hours than they are allowed to and people who work on a visitor’s visa.

Businesses employing illegal workers may be liable to pay a civil penalty of up to £20,000 for each illegal worker. The proposed Immigration Act will introduce new criminal offences.

Under the Right to Work, employers are required to check job applicants are allowed to work for them in the UK before they are employed. This includes checking worker’s original documents with the worker present and to keeping copies of documents and a record of the date the check was made.

Employers must check:

  • Documents are genuine and belong to the applicant.
  • The dates for the worker’s right to work in the UK have not expired.
  • Photos are the same across all documents and look like the applicant.
  • Dates of birth are the same across all documents.
  • The person has permission to do the type of work offered.
  • Evidence of students study and vacation times.
  • If documents give different names, supporting documents showing the reason for this.

Further checks are required if the person has restrictions on their right to work in the UK. See Check if someone can work in the UK.

In 2014, the government made Right to Work checks easier for legitimate employers to carry out, by reducing the frequency of checks and the range of documents needed.

On 14 October 2015, Immigration Minister James Brokenshire announced ‘Operation Magnify’, an enforcement campaign targeting illegal working in the construction industry. See Operation magnify for more information.

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