Right to work checks during COVID-19

29th April 2020

The Home Office has published guidance on how employers may conduct right to work checks, given the guidance for workers to stay at home.

It remains an offence to knowingly employ an illegal worker, with fines of up to £20,000 per illegal worker and therefore, it is very important for employers to follow the new temporary right to work guidance, in order to take advantage of the statutory defence.

The key points are as follows:-

  1. Job applicants and existing workers can scan copies of the prescribed documents or photos of the documents to check using email or a mobile app, rather than the original documents.
  2. Verification checks can be undertaken on video calls with the applicant or worker, who holds up the original document so the employer can check against the digital copy of the document.
  3. The date of the check should be recorded and marked as “adjusted check undertaken on [  ] due to COVID-19”.
  4. If a worker or applicant already has a biometric residence permit, or status under the Settled Status Scheme, a check should be undertaken using the online checking service, whilst the applicant or worker is on the phone. The applicant must give you permission to do this.
  5. Employers should use the Home Office Employer Checking Service, if the applicant cannot send any of the acceptable documents.

The above is a temporary measure during the restrictions and the Home Office will advise in advance when these measures will end. After that date, employers will be required to carry out the prescribed checks in the usual manner.

Employers will be required to carry out retrospective right to work checks on existing employees who started work during these measures or who required a follow up check during the measures. The retrospective check should be carried out using original documents as usual within eight weeks of the COVID-19 measures ending. Records of both checks must be kept for compliance purposes.

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