On 30 March 2020, the Home Office issued guidance to adjust the standard right to work check requirements.

Right to work checks are still required and it remains an offence to knowingly employ a person who is not lawfully in the UK. The acceptable process for undertaking a check has been adjusted to enable it to be carried out safely and in accordance with the public health guidance in place to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

The new guidance confirms as follows:

  • 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

The recommended process for undertaking a right to work check during the coronavirus restrictions is as follows:

  • Ask the worker to submit a scanned copy or a photo of their original documents via email or using a mobile app
  • Arrange a video call with the worker – ask them to hold up the original documents to the camera and check them against the digital copy of the documents
  • Record the date the check was made and mark it as “adjusted check undertaken on [insert date] due to COVID-19”

If the worker has a current Biometric Residence Permit or Biometric Residence Card or status under the EU Settlement Scheme the employer can use the online right to work checking service while doing a video call. If they have status under the EU Settlement Scheme, the prospective employee will need to provide the prospective employer with a share code to enable the employer to access their online immigration status record.

If the prospective employee cannot provide their current, valid documents, for example because they have an in time application or appeal which remains outstanding, the employer can use the Home Office Employer Checking Service. If the person has a right to work, the Employer Checking Service will send the employer a ‘Positive Verification Notice’. This provides a statutory excuse against a civil penalty for 6 months from the date in the notice.

It is important to keep a record of all checks carried out in this adjusted way. When the coronavirus restrictions are lifted, a further check will be required. This will need to be a standard check, carried out in accordance with the process set out in Home Office guidance on right to work checks.

This follow up check must be carried within 8 weeks of the restrictions being lifted. The record of the follow up check should be marked “the individual’s employment contract commenced on [insert date]. The prescribed right to work check was undertaken on [insert date] due to COVID-19.” The employer should retain the record of both checks.

An employer will only be able to maintain a statutory excuse against a penalty if both checks have been carried out, unless the first check was carried out using a method prescribed by Home Office guidance on right to work checks. If the follow up check reveals that the employee does not have a right to work, the employer must take steps to end employment.

If you have any queries about this matter, or about any immigration matter, these can be directed to Freeths Immigration through our Coronavirus Helpline 0845404 4111 or by e-mail