COVID-19 right to work checks to continue until 05 April 2022

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Posted on 27 Aug 2021

COVID-19 right to work checks to continue until 05 April 2022

Home office right to work update

In welcome news for employers, the Home Office has announced that employers can continue Covid-19 adjusted digital right to work checks until 05 April 2022.

The Government has deferred the previous end date of 31 August 2021 following positive feedback it received about the ability to conduct checks remotely.

The Government’s previous planned end date of 31 August 2021 was unpopular with many businesses which have adapted to remote working or hybrid working models during the pandemic. They requested ongoing digital options for right to work checks for migrants who cannot currently prove their right to work using the Home Office online checking service (such as UK and Irish citizens). The latest announcement from the Government acts on these concerns, with the Government stating that it intends to introduce a ‘new digital solution’ to include those who cannot use the Home Office online system and implement a ‘long-term’ solution post-pandemic. This is also in line with Home Office’s intention to digitise all immigration processes. 

Covid-19 changes

Since 30 March 2020, the Government has allowed employers to carry out right to work checks by video call due to Covid-19. Job applicants and existing workers can send scanned documents or photos of documents by email or using a mobile app.

When arranging the video call with the worker, the employer must ask them to hold up the original documents to the camera and check them against the digital copy of the documents, record the date they made the check and mark it as follows:

 “I, [insert name], in the position of [insert job title], confirm that this is a true copy of the original, which I have seen electronically via [insert video call medium, for example Zoom/Microsoft teams etc]. This is an adjusted check undertaken on [x date] at [insert exact time of check] due to COVID-19.” 

 A “follow-up” check must be done shortly before the worker’s permission to stay expires if they have time limited leave to work in the UK.

This adjusted process has now been extended up to and including 5 April 2022, but the Government has expressly confirmed its intention to introduce longer term digital solutions beyond this date.

Online right to work checks have been possible since January 2019. However, the online service can only be used to check the right to work if the worker has a current Biometric Residence Permit or Biometric Residence Card, or has been granted a Frontier Worker Permit or status under the EU Settlement Scheme or points-based immigration system. This means it cannot be used for employees holding a British passport, for example. 

Checks from 6 April 2022

New guidance will be published ahead of 6 April 2022, so it is unclear what will replace the Covid-19 adjusted process from this date. However, we can expect a longer-term digital solution in line with the Government’s stated intention outlined above, which is great news for employers who have embraced remote working. 

Retrospective checks?

The Home Office has confirmed that employers will not have to carry out retrospective checks for those who had Covid-19 adjusted checks between 30 March 2020 and 05 April 2022 inclusive. 

Illegal working penalties

It is important that employers carry out right to work checks correctly. If they don’t, they will not be able to establish the statutory excuse if a worker is found to be working illegally. As a result, they could face a civil penalty of up to £20,000 per illegal worker which can in turn lead to the employer’s sponsor licence being downgraded or, in some cases, revoked.  

 Employers also commit a criminal offence if they employ someone they know is an illegal worker or whom they have reasonable cause to believe is not allowed to work in the UK due to their immigration status.

 If you need help with right to work checks, please get in touch with Anita de Atouguia or Zahira Patel, or your usual Business Immigration contact

Key Contacts

Anita de Atouguia

Anita has specialised in immigration law for over 20 years and is one of the UK's leading immigration experts. She joined Doyle Clayton in 2012 to set up its Immigration service having worked in the immigration practices of some of the UK’s best known full service law firms including CMS and Lewis Silkin.

  • Partner & Head of Immigration
  • T: +44 (0)20 7778 7233
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The articles published on this website, current at the date of publication, are for reference purposes only. They do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your own circumstances should always be sought separately before taking any action.

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