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ECS Check

The Employer Checking Service (ECS) is used by businesses to ensure that all their employees have a right to work in the UK. It is a vital tool to ensure that you are remaining compliant with all UK employment regulations.

You can learn more about how your business can use ECS to fulfil its legal obligations by reading this article, or contacting one of the Immigration Advice Service’s advisors at 0333 305 9375.

What is the Employer Checking Service (ECS)

As an employer, you must ensure that all of your staff are working legally through right-to-work checks. These confirm that an employee or prospective employee’s immigration status is consistent with the role that you are offering them. You are required to carry out these checks for all prospective employees and employees that have time-limited permission to work.

Failing to carry out these obligations could be problematic for your business. You can face a fine of a maximum of £20,000 for every illegal worker you have hired. That is unless you can prove you have carried out the necessary checks. This is where ECS comes in as a vital tool.

When to Use ECS

ECS is necessary if you cannot use online or manual document checks to verify someone’s right to work in the UK. Common reasons that ECS is needed include if the prospective hire has:

  • An outstanding appeal, administrative review, or application with the home office.
  • Arrived before 1989 and have no documentation to prove their status.
  • A Certificate of Application that is younger than 180 days and specifies the employer needs to check their right to work.
  • An Application Registration Card specifying the work you are offering is permitted.

How to Use ECS

Conducting an ECS check can be a lengthy administrative process. The key steps to carry out are:

  • Asking the prospective employee for permission to run an ECS check on their information.
  • Accessing ECS through the government website.
  • Answering questions to confirm an ECS check is relevant.
  • Entering the employee’s personal information, your business details, and the nature of the role.
  • Copying the prospective employee’s documents and checking that they are valid.

Having provided the Home Office with this information, they will carry out the checks and notify you if the individual has a right to work.

Receiving a Positive Verification Notice


If the Home Office can confirm that your hire has a right to work, they will issue you with a Positive Verification Notice (PVN). This document confirms that your hire can work in the role you have offered them, and you are free to proceed. The PVN will be valid for six months, and you need to carry out another PVN after this period has elapsed.

You are required to keep hold of the PVN. It must be stored in print or online for two years. This will prove that you have done the due diligence to confirm that an employee can work in the UK if it later emerges that they were working illegally.

What to Do if I Do Not Receive a Positive Verification Notice?

If it is found during the ECS process that the person you are checking is not entitled to work in the UK, you will receive confirmation that it has come back negative.

Under no circumstances should you proceed with the employment of the individual. You will have no defence against a civil penalty that might be brought against you.

You could also find yourself in legal trouble. As an employer, knowing that one of your employees does not have a right to work, you could be imprisoned for five years and receive a fine with no limit. This is the case regardless of whether you receive a negative check on a current or prospective employee.

Take the first step. Contact us today for help and assistance with your ECS checks.

How Can IAS Help?

Getting an ECS check completed properly is a high-stakes matter. It is the best legal protection against your business getting fined for hiring someone who does not have a right to work in the UK.

One of IAS’ services is to provide employers with the guidance they need to remain compliant with right-to-work legislation. Our expert advisors and lawyers can help you with ECS checks and challenge civil penalties that you may face for failing to properly conduct ECS checks.

If you want to find out more about how we can help you to remain compliant, contact us at 0333 305 9375 to be put through to an advisor that can help you understand the services we offer to employers. You can also contact us online.

Need expert advice on employment law? Book a face-to-face appointment with our experienced team today.

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Frequently Asked Questions

There are a few cases where you will not have to use ECS to guarantee someone’s right to work. All of these examples require the worker to have access to their documentation.

You can check someone’s right to work online if they have their “share code” and either a biometric residence permit or settled status through the EU settlement scheme.

You can also conduct a manual check yourself if the worker is able to show you their visa and work permit. However, this is a high-risk strategy as you may not have the capability to identify falsified documentation.

The exact amount of time you will need to wait varies depending on the complexity of the individual’s case. However, you can usually expect the Home Office to return your PVN or a Negative Verification Notice within five days.

There are no basic penalties for businesses that fail to conduct an ECS check when they are hiring an employee that meets the requirements for an ECS check.

However, failing to complete this check is a substantial gamble. Your employee may already have a right to work, but if they don’t, your business will be in legal trouble. It could be fined up to £20,000 for every employee working for it illegally.

Whatever your business’ circumstances, the ECS is a crucial tool that is brilliant legal protection.

Luckily for businesses needed to run an ECS check, the process is entirely free if you are able to complete it yourself. Simply head over to the government website and complete the form.

However, many businesses choose not to risk it and prefer to outsource to a business that specialises in getting ECS checks done properly. In this case, you will be charged by the business you are hiring.

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