Online Right To Work Check (RTW) vs Employer Checking Service Check (ECS) — what’s the difference?

Danielle Cohen
By Danielle Cohen Immigration Law Solicitor Linkedin
Danielle Cohen has over 20 years of experience as a lawyer and a reputation for offering professional, honest and expert advice.
1 May 2024

What is the online Right to Work check (RTW)?

The online Right to Work check is a service provided by the Home Office that allows you as an employer to check and verify a person’s rights to work. All employers are required to conduct a Right to Work check before offering employment to a candidate. The aim of the RTW is to fully ensure that the individual has the legal right to work in the UK and hence they are not an illegal worker.

You do not need to check for existing employees from EU or EEA or Switzerland if they came to the UK before 1 July 2021. British and Irish citizens cannot get an online share code to prove their right to work and therefore you need to check their original documents, for example their passports.

The online Right to Work check service works on the basis if the individual first provides online permission to share the immigration status. With their permission, the employer can use the online RTW service to check the right of respective employees to work in the UK.

How to carry out an online Right to Work check?

The prospective employee requests a share code using the online service. The employee will need to have a biometric residence card, settled or pre-settled status or have applied for a visa and used the UK immigration ID check app to verify their identity. The employee will need their biometric residence permit number, biometric residence card number or passport or national identity card.

What is the Employer’s Checking Service (ECS)?

This provides an alternative way for employers to check the right of potential employees right to work if they cannot use the online Right to Work check service. The employer checking service is typically used when an individual has an outstanding visa or other immigration application with the application being considered by the Home Office or for those who arrived in the UK before 1989 and do not have documents to prove their legal immigration status for a right to work.

How to use the Employer Checking Service?

You can visit a Home Office website Right To Work and answer all the questions entering the details of the individuals including their full name, date of birth, nationality, job titles, hours worked per week, etc and then enter your business name and submit ECS request. The Home Office will carry out the necessary checks and respond within five working days.

What is the difference between RTW and ECS?

The RTW’s check service is quick to complete and allows employers immediately to view the existing immigration status and can only be used if the individual already has the right to work in the UK. The ECS on the other hand is used if the individual cannot yet prove their right to work in the UK but the process requires more information and you can wait for a decision for up to five days.

What are the penalties for non-compliance?

Carrying out compliant right to work checks on employees or prospective employees is extremely important for an employer and if they do not carry them adequately or not at all, they could find themselves employing an illegal worker or facing civil penalty of a fine of up to £20,000. An employer will be sent a civil penalty notice if found liable and will have 28 days within which to respond and pay the fine. The employer could also be guilty of a criminal offence and face criminal sanctions if they are found liable for employing someone they knew or had reasonable cause to believe did not have the right to work in the UK.