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Guide to pre-employment checks

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If you have a new employee, this model guide to pre-employment checks will help you to check their integrity and background, and prevent illegal working.

The guide covers key details covering:

  • Right to work
  • Medical checks
  • References
  • Integrity of candidates
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How long to understand this guide?
10 mins
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guide to pre-employment checks

What is a Guide to pre-employment checks?

All employers in the UK have a responsibility to prevent illegal working.

You do this by conducting simple right to work checks before you employ someone, to make sure the individual is not disqualified from carrying out the work in question by reason of their immigration status, and that the information that they have given you during the recruitment process is accurate.

Applicable legal jurisdiction
In which jurisdiction can this guide be used?
Great Britain & NI (United Kingdom)
  • The Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006: Employers are required to conduct right to work checks on all employees before they start work to ensure that they have the legal right to work in the UK.

  • The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974: Employers must take into account the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act when conducting criminal records checks on potential employees. This legislation sets out the length of time that certain convictions will remain on an individual's criminal record and when they can become spent (i.e. not disclosed) to employers.

  • The Data Protection Act 2018: Employers must comply with data protection regulations when carrying out pre-employment checks, and must ensure that they have the candidate's consent to conduct any checks and that any personal data is handled in accordance with the legislation.

  • The Equality Act 2010: Employers must ensure that any pre-employment checks are non-discriminatory and do not infringe on any protected characteristics, such as age, race, gender, or disability.

  • The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974: Employers have a duty to ensure the health and safety of their employees, and may need to conduct pre-employment checks to ensure that candidates are physically and mentally capable of carrying out the required job duties.

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Guide to pre-employment checks

Right to work

You must check that staff have the right to work in the UK under the Immigration, Asylum, and Nationality Act.

  • It is the employer's job to ensure that employees have the legal right to work in the UK, so don't depend on what you are told; instead, double-check.
  • When verifying an employee's permission to work in the UK, original documentation must be shown; duplicates are not acceptable.
  • The Home Office publishes two lists of acceptable papers to verify employees' permission to work in the UK, so check their lists to ensure you've satisfied the standards.

Allowing candidates to sign a document verifying their permission to work in the UK isn't enough to fulfil your requirements; you must also check.

  • Check for original paperwork verifying the employee's eligibility to work in the UK and make duplicates that include the date the check was made.
  • Check the authenticity of documentation pertaining to an employee's permission to work in the UK, as well as any limitations such as time limits on visas.

Make certain that the paperwork proving your eligibility to work in the UK are legitimate and have not been tampered with.

  • When reviewing paperwork demonstrating the permission to work in the UK, ensure that the dates of birth match, the pictures are of the correct person, and
  • Make certain that new employees do not begin work until you have documentation of their legal permission to work in the UK.

Medical checks

You can ask potential workers health-related questions after you've offered them the job.

  • You can only ask health inquiries prior to a job offer if you need to know if someone is physically capable of doing the task.
  • You can only ask job candidates about a disability to determine whether reasonable accommodations are necessary during the recruitment process.
  • Under the Data Protection Act, information concerning candidates' health is a unique category of personal data that requires either individual consent or a clear legal basis for processing.
  • To prevent data protection act issues, make sure you obtain consent from job candidates before processing any health-related information.

Be extremely cautious when declining a job offer due to health concerns.

  • If you wish to withdraw a job offer because of a candidate's medical questionnaire responses, get legal advice first or you might face a disability discrimination claim.
  • If a job candidate has a health problem, make sure you properly investigate appropriate changes before withdrawing the offer.
  • If a candidate's medical questionnaire raises concerns, investigate the issues and seek guidance on their implications before acting, since you will need to be able to properly defend your decision if you withdraw an offer.
  • Before dismissing a candidate for health concerns, get guidance on what reasonable alterations could allow them to accept an offered position.

References

Unless you work in the financial services business and provide a regulated position, you are not required to provide references for former workers if you do not choose to.

Although you are not required to provide a reference for an ex-employee in most circumstances, failing to do so sends a bad message, so if you are worried, a simple dates-only reference is preferable to nothing.

  • A potential employer will view a reluctance to provide a reference negatively, therefore provide them to ex-employees if possible, even if they aren't particularly specific.
  • Many individuals assume that employers are not permitted to provide negative references, however this is lawful as long as it's based on verifiable facts.
  • A reference must be factual, fair, and not present a false view of the candidate, which means it can be negative if necessary.
  • It is OK to include negative material in a reference as long as it is true, already known to the employee, and evidence-based, so if you are considering doing so, be sure you can back it up.
  • If you have documentation of performance issues discussed with an ex-employee, you can use it as a reference.
  • Make certain that you can present proof to back up any unfavourable claims you make in a reference for an ex employee.

When providing a reference for an ex-employee, you have a responsibility to ensure that it is truthful and does not offer a false image to a potential employer.

  • A potential employer may hold you accountable if you provide a falsely favourable reference and they incur financial damage as a consequence, therefore neutral is the best option if you don't want to mention anything negative.
  • When providing a verbal reference, you should be just as cautious as you would be in writing, and you should be fair and accurate.
  • While you can provide a reference in confidence, it is likely that the ex employee will be able to seek it from the new employer under the Data Protection Act, and the new company may choose to release it.

Ideally, ex-employees should be given a copy of a reference letter that was written for them. There shouldn't be anything in a reference that a former employee isn't aware of, so show them if requested.

Integrity of candidates

Candidates that lie on job applications are not uncommon, but they may be a significant issue, so attempt to iron out any discrepancies before making an offer.

  • To avoid difficulties later, use job interviews to iron out any discrepancies on CVs or applications.
  • Read job applications carefully for any potential embellishments or omissions that you can iron out during the interview.
  • If qualifications are vital, consider acquiring copies of certificates before accepting a job offer, and do all possible to guarantee they are authentic.

When obtaining a reference, asking particular questions might help you obtain relevant information about the authenticity of material on an application or provided during an interview.

  • A verbal reference might be valuable since managers may feel more able to provide additional detail; nevertheless, managers are becoming less willing to provide these.

If you discover that an applicant misled throughout the recruitment process, you might rescind the offer.

  • Withdrawing an offer of employment due to falsehoods given during the recruiting process is acceptable, but be open about your reasoning and provide documentation of your findings.
  • When withdrawing a job offer owing to inaccurate information provided by job seekers, provide evidence of your concerns in case they believe a protected trait is relevant or claim breach of contract.

You can fire an employee who misled throughout the hiring process, but you must explain why and provide proof to prevent a discrimination lawsuit.

  • If you wish to fire someone who misled throughout the hiring process, examine if it is a reasonable reply and whether there are any potential protected qualities they may deem important.
  • It is dangerous to fire someone who misled about their health during recruiting, so get guidance first.

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