In advertisements for new staff and during interviews, you must not say anything that could be seen as discrimination against any prospective employee on grounds of sex, gender reassignment, race, colour, ethnic background, marital status, disability, trade union membership and/or activity, age, religion/belief (England, Wales and Scotland) or religious belief or political opinion (Northern Ireland) or sexual orientation.

You should record your reasons for not offering a job to any unsuccessful applicant, ensure that this information is retained and that it cannot be interpreted as showing an intention to discriminate.

To avoid a potential claim of discrimination, the employer should treat every applicant in the same way.

Sometimes a job will require an applicant of a particular sex, race, age, religion/belief or sexual orientation. As long as this is a genuine requirement or qualification for the job then it will not be unlawful to discriminate against certain sectors of society.

If you feel that this may apply to you then we advise that you seek legal advice.

Application form

Each candidate should be asked to complete a job application form. Completed application forms are useful in compiling personnel records, assisting the objective selection of suitable candidates and providing a framework for interviews.

For more information on application forms, including your responsibilities under data protection laws, see our Job application form section.

Entitlement to work in the UK

You should ask all candidates to bring with them to the interview documentary evidence that they are entitled to work in the UK.

It is a criminal offence for an employer to knowingly employ a person aged 16 or over who does not have permission to live and work in the UK and a court can impose an unlimited fine and/or 2 years' imprisonment for each illegally employed individual.

In addition, an employer may be liable to a civil penalty for unlawfully employing a worker who does not have a right to work in the UK. Depending on the circumstances, the Home Office may issue a civil penalty of up to £20,000.

Appropriate documents

Before the start of their employment, you must make sure that the candidate shows you at least one document that demonstrates their right to work in the UK. This will help you avoid any potential liability. Suitable documents are set out in 2 lists provided by the Home Office known as 'List A' and 'List B'. These lists can be found in the in the Code of practice on preventing illegal working (PDF).

Although the code doesn't impose a legal duty on you to follow it, it may be used as evidence by the courts and tribunals when determining any legal liability. The code should be read in conjunction with the Home office's guides: An employer's guide to right to work checks (PDF); An employer's guide to the administration of the civil penalty scheme (PDF) and Code of practice for employers- Avoiding unlawful discrimination while preventing illegal working (PDF).

Other government guides are available in addition to those listed here.

Coronavirus update: As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK government has introduced temporary changes to how right to work checks can be made. See our Coronavirus (COVID-19) section under 'Amendments to right-to-work checks.'

Related services

  • Job application form
    Compatible region(s): England & Wales Scotland Northern Ireland

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