Before an employee starts, it’s important to check the identity of the worker and make sure that they have valid Right to Work in the UK.  However, as part of the challenges faced by employees since the UK lockdown was introduced in March 2020, it was identified that employers would struggle to carry out these checks when their new employees are either working remotely at home or unable to handle documents before starting at sensitive onsite work premises.

Temporary Measures

The government announced that the right to work checks have been changed temporarily due to COVID -19.

This means that:

  • Checks can now be carried out over video calls
  • Job applicants and existing workers can send scanned documents or a photo of documents for
    checks using email or a mobile app, rather than sending originals
  • Employers should use the Employer Checking Service if a prospective or existing employee
    cannot provide any of the accepted documents.

It was previously only acceptable to carry out right to work checks in person and seeing original documents, so this is a huge step and should help employers mitigate risks that come from conducting face to face interviews and any unnecessary visits.

Back to Normal Measures

It’s likely that further clear guidance will be issued when the COVID-19 measures-end.  After that date, you should follow the checking process set out in right to work checks: an employer’s guide.

We expect that you will be asked to carry out retrospective checks on existing employees who:

  • started working for you during these temporary measures
  • required a follow-up right to work check during these measures
  • You should mark this check: “the individual’s contract commenced on [insert date]. The prescribed right to work check was undertaken on [insert date] due to COVID-19.”

The retrospective check will need to be carried out within 8 weeks of the COVID-19 measures ending. Both checks should be kept for your records.

Government guidance currently suggests that the Home Office will not take any enforcement action against you if you carried out the adjusted check set out in this guidance, or a check via the Home Office, and follow this up with the retrospective check.

If, at the point of carrying out the retrospective check, you find your employee does not have permission to be in the UK you will likely need to end their employment.

— important disclaimer —

It’s a difficult time and updates are being released almost daily on most guidance.  These measures will be reviewed by the government on an ongoing basis and we’ll endeavour to update this document when rules are no longer relaxed.  However, we always recommend that you take advice to ensure that legislation still applies before adhering to any guidance mentioned in this article.

For further guidance, please see the: Coronavirus (COVID-19): right to work checks guidance on the Gov website.

Last Updated on 4 years by Hannah Ingram

Author: Gary Parsons
Gary is CEO at Talk Staff, passionate about the role that people play in helping build long-term and sustainable businesses. He sits on local business advisory boards and has been key in leading the growth of Talk Staff from inception in 2009.