Temporary changes to right to work checks during coronavirus outbreak

31 March 2020

The Home Secretary has confirmed that to allow employers to carry out right to work checks more easily, the process will be amended during the coronavirus outbreak.

The changes announced on 30 March are immediately effective and mean that the Home Office will not require employers to see original documents, but that they can accept scanned documents or photos of documents sent via email or mobile app as proof of an individual’s right to work. Checks may also be carried out over video calls. The guidance suggests that employers take the following steps:

  • Request that the worker submits a signed copy or a photo of the original documents via email or using a mobile app
  • Arranges a video call with the worker, requesting that they hold up the original documents to the camera so that they can be checked against the digital copy of the documents
  • Record the date that the check was made and mark as “adjusted check undertaken on [insert date] due to COVID-19”
  • For individuals who hold a current Biometric Residence Permit/ Card or status under the EU Settlement Scheme, the online right to work checking service can be used while the video call is being carried out, but the applicant must confirm that they are happy for the employer to view their details

There is still a legal obligation on employers to carry out these checks, and it is an offence to knowingly employ anybody who does not have legal immigration status in the UK. The documents that can be accepted are listed in the right to work checks: an employer’s guide. The fines for hiring an illegal worker can be up to £20,000 per person.

In line with the standard process, for any prospective employee who cannot provide any of the accepted documents, employers should utilise the Employer Checking Service. If the individual has a right to work, a ‘Positive Verification Notice’ will be sent, which gives the employer a statutory excuse for six months from the date on that notice.

When the temporary changes end, employers will be required to carry out retrospective full checks on existing employees who commenced employment during the pandemic. This check must be performed within eight weeks of the COVID-19 measures ending, and this, along with the initial adjusted check, should be kept on record. If the employee does not have permission to be in the UK and this is discovered at the point of the retrospective check, the employer must end their employment.


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