It's the law: Asylum and Immigration Act

Employing someone you shouldn't could cost you £5,000, so make sure you see the right documents.

Although the legislation has been in place for more than 10 years, many employers are unaware of the important provisions of the Asylum and Immigration Act and their responsibilities under it.

The Government has recently increased the penalties for failing to comply with the Act, partly to improve compliance. Breaching the Act is a criminal offence: an employer can be fined up to £5,000 per employee if it fails to obtain appropriate documentation for each new member of staff. Employers should ensure they have proper mechanisms to comply.

In brief, an employer must ensure it has a copy of at least one of the following documents: a British passport, evidence that the individual is a national of any European Economic Area country, a UK residence permit for an EEA national, a passport endorsed with the right to stay indefinitely in the UK, a passport endorsed to show that the holder can undertake the type of work he or she has applied for or an application registration card showing that the asylum holder is permitted to take employment during the asylum process.

Alternatively, an employer can accept evidence of the individual's national insurance number and one of the following: a full British birth certificate; a Channels Islands, Isle of Man or Irish birth certificate, or certificate of registration or naturalisation; a Home Office letter evidencing right to stay indefinitely; a letter from the Home Office allowing the holder to undertake certain forms of work; or an immigration status document.

An employer can also accept a work permit and a passport endorsed to show the holder can stay and work in the UK.

Employers are advised to check documents carefully. If they have any concerns, they should contact the Home Office employer's helpline on 0845 0106677.

Employers are also advised to seek evidence of the right to work in the UK from all new employees, rather than employees from a particular racial ethnic or national group, so as to avoid any suggestion of race discrimination.

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