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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.

What are the consequences of non-compliance?

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

  • On-the-spot fines for each illegal migrant worker
  • Prison sentences for employers if illegal migrant workers are employed knowingly
  • 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. 

Importantly, since all University faculties and schools are housed under one sponsor licence, non-compliance from just one area could mean consequences for the entire University.

How is this enforced?

The government’s UK Visas & Immigration department undertakes visits to check our compliance with the relevant legislation, policies and regulations. These visits can be unannounced.

How do we ensure that we keep the University compliant?

Who is eligible to work in the UK?

As a quick guide, European and Economic Area (EEA) or Swiss Nationals were free to enter, live and take work in the UK without Home Office permission until 31 December 2020. For an up-to-date list of EEA countries see here.

Non-EEA Nationals 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 here. 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 Tier 2 of the Points Based System.

How have the immigration rules changed from January 2021?

From January 2021, freedom of movement will end and citizens of EEA countries (excluding Ireland) will need to apply for visas in order to enter and work in the UK in much the same way as non-EEA staff do currently.  The main routes for them to do so will be:

  • The Global Talent visa, which replaces the Tier 1 'exceptional talent' visa, and is already available to both EEA and non-EEA workers
  • A new Skilled Worker visa, which replaces the Tier 2 Points Based visa and is open to both EEA and non-EEA workers

Colleagues and their family members from the EEA who arrived or will arrive in the UK prior to 31 December 2020 have until 30 June 2021 to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme for either settled or pre-settled status before that scheme closes.

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 hold the right to work in the UK at the shortlisting stage. Case law has established that this could 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 here.

Who can I speak to for more information?

For anything not covered in these pages, please contact