On 20 April 2021, the Home Office updated guidance for employers in relation to carrying out right to work checks during the pandemic.

What’s the current procedure?

In brief, there are currently 3 ways to check someone’s eligibility to work in the UK.

  1. Conducting a manual right to work check; or
  2. Using the Home Office’s online right to work checking service; or
  3. Conducting a temporary Covid-19 adjusted right to work check. In light of the pandemic, the Home Office had introduced this way of checking documents on 30 March 2020. The process involves the worker sending a scanned copy of photo of their original right to work documents via email or a mobile app and then the employer arranging a video call with the worker to verify the documents.

Option 3 has been hugely beneficial for employers for a number of reasons, including that the onboarding process for the new hire is quicker (as there is no need for employers to hold original documents) and it provides an effective way to check documents whilst we are working remotely.

What are the changes?

  • The temporary Covid-19 adjusted right to work checks will end on 16 May 2021 (inclusive).
  • Retrospective checks on individuals for whom a Covid-19 adjusted right to work check had been completed between 30 March 2020 and 16 May 2021 (inclusive) won’t be required.
  • From 17 May 2021, employers must either check the applicant’s original documents via a manual right to work check or check their right to work online using their share code, if applicable via the Home Office’s online right to work checking service.

Are these changes welcome news?

Whilst many employers will be delighted to hear that retrospective changes won’t now be required, my concern is that employers will need to revert back to the old way of checking documents if they want to use the manual check. This will require employers to physically hold original documents when conducting the manual right to work checks, albeit over a live video call. As many organisations are still working remotely, I fear that the practicalities of this announcement will not be well received.

I’d recommend employers put in place measures to ensure that they have the processes in place to meet these latest changes to avoid any unpleasant surprises!