Return to in-person right to work checks delayed to 21 June
The Home Office has announced that changes to right to work checks put in place during the coronavirus pandemic will now end on 20 June 2021. From 21 June, employers will have to check the applicant’s original documents, or in some cases it is possible to check their right to work online. The Government's previous plan to make this change from 17 May came in for criticism, bearing in mind that Government guidance states that employees should continue to work from home where they can until at least 21 June.
Since 30 March 2020, the Government has allowed employers to carry out right to work checks by videocall. Job applicants and existing workers are allowed to send scanned documents or photos of documents by email or using a mobile app. These arrangements were introduced as a result of Covid-19 but are now coming to an end.
Checks from 21 June 2021
From 21 June, employers will have to conduct right to work checks in person, unless the job applicant has a right to work share code, in which case the check can be conducted online.
Employers carrying out in-person right to work checks will need to meet with the applicant, check their original documents in front of them (making sure that they are valid and unaltered), and take a copy of the documents which they must retain securely (in hard copy or scanned in a format which cannot be manually altered). They also need to record the date of the check and the date for follow-up checks.
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 status under the EU Settlement Scheme or the points-based immigration system. This means it cannot be used for employees holding a British passport, for example.
The re-introduction of in-person right to work checks from 21 June now coincides with the expected re-opening of offices and change to Government work from home guidance from that date.
In-person checks can be a problem for employees who are clinically extremely vulnerable or who are self-isolating, and therefore cannot present themselves at work for this mandatory check prior to starting work.
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 20 June 2021.
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.
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