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Updated Right to Work checks amidst the coronavirus pandemic

What to expect

From 30 March 2020 right to work checks for employers have been temporarily adjusted due to the coronavirus pandemic. This is a welcome move that makes it easier to carry out the checks.

It is important to understand that whilst the checks have been made easier to conduct, they continue to be necessary. Employers must continue to check the prescribed documents listed in the Home Office guidance ‘Right to work checks: An employer’s guide’. It is still an offence to knowingly employ anyone who doesn’t have a right to work in the UK.

The coronavirus pandemic has left some people unable to evidence their right to work. During this period, employers must be extra cautious and make sure they don’t discriminate against any job applicants or employees simply because they can’t provide documents.

Temporary measures during the pandemic

During the current period employers can:

  • Ask for a scanned copy or a photo of the original documents by email or using a mobile app
  • Arrange a video call and ask for the original documents to be held up to the camera and check these against the digital copy
  • Record the date the check was made and add ‘adjusted check undertaken due to COVID-19’ to their personnel records
  • Ask applicants who have current Biometric Residence Permits; Biometric Residence Cards; or status under the EU Settlement Scheme for permission to view their details and use the Home Office Online Right to Work Checking Service while doing the video call.

If the individual can’t show their documents, employers must contact the Home Office Employer Checking Service. If the person has a right to work, the Employer Checking Service will confirm this in a ‘Positive Verification Notice’. This provides a statutory excuse (defence) against a civil penalty (fine) for six months from the date of the notice.

Post coronavirus measures

As there is no certainty about when the pandemic will cease, it is unclear when the above measures will end. Once this has been decided the Home Office will set out the new procedure in an updated version of the ‘Right to work checks: An employer’s guide’.

Retrospective checks will need to be conducted within eight weeks of the coronavirus measures ending, on employees who:

  • started working during the above period; or
  • required a follow-up right to work check during the above period.

Both checks should be kept on record.

The Home Office will not take any enforcement action against employers who carried out adjusted checks and followed this up with retrospective checks.

If you have been affected by this, or any other UK immigration issues please contact our team.


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