As part of the government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, from 30 March the “right to work” checks that an employer must carry out have been adjusted.
Normally, an employer must carry out “right to work” checks on all prospective employees before they begin their employment and carry out follow-up checks for those with time-limited permission to live and work in the UK. This would usually involve obtaining original documentation of the employee’s right to work, checking the documentation’s validity and retaining a copy with a note recording the date that the check was made. If these checks are not done an employer may be liable for a civil penalty, such as a fine, or criminal sanctions for employing a worker illegally in the UK.
However, due to the current crisis that we find ourselves in, the government have adjusted these processes to make it easier for employers for the time being. The adjusted “right to work” process that an employee must currently carry out is as follows:
- Ask the individual to submit a scanned copy or a photo of their original documents either via email or mobile app such as WhatsApp.
- Arrange a video call with the individual and ask them to hold up their original documents to the camera so that you can check them against the digital copy that they have sent.
- Record the date that the check was made with the following note “Adjusted check undertaken on [insert date] due to COVID-19” on a copy of the documents.
The government have advised employers to use their online right to work checking service for those individuals with a Biometric Residence Permit, Biometric Residence Card or status under the EU Settlement scheme. Employers should note however that you need the individual’s permission to view these details, and this service should be used whilst you are on the video call with the individual that you are checking.
If, for whatever reason, somebody cannot provide the required documents, employers can use the Home Office’s Employer Checking Service. If someone does have the right to work, the employer will receive a “positive verification notice” which provides employers with six months from the date of the notice to get the employee to comply with the standard “right to work” checks.
After the coronavirus crisis has passed, and the adjustments have ended, employers will have eight weeks to carry out retrospective right to work checks in the usual manner. On the documents reviewed as part of the retrospective checks, the employer should make the following note:
“The individual’s contract commenced on [insert date]. The prescribed right to work check was undertaken on [insert date] due to COVID-19”.
Employers will need to make sure that they keep both copies of the checks carried out to avoid any penalties.