It has been announced by the Home Office today, 18th June 2021, that the Coronavirus adjusted right-to-work checks will now remain in place until 1st September 2021.
As all employers are aware, you must check that a job applicant is allowed to work for you before you employ them. This applies to all potential employees, regardless of nationality.
The Home Office provides specific guidelines for employers, setting out what documents are acceptable evidence and how checks should be carried out. Businesses that are found to have employed someone who doesn’t have the correct right to work can be liable for a civil penalty of up to £20,000 per illegal worker. However, provided the guidance is followed, employers are deemed to have established what is called the ‘statutory excuse’ to protect them against the civil penalty.
Back on 30th March 2020, in response to the pandemic, the Government brought in a temporary change to the guidance that is issued to employers for the checking of individual’s right to work documents.
Since then, employers have been able to conduct checks remotely - using a digital copy (such as a scan or a photo sent by email/text) and verify its validity by a video call, as opposed to the 'normal' process of having to physically see the original document. Other checking methods have remained relevant, depending on the potential employee's right to work status and available documents, such as the Home Office's online employer checking service.
Checks that have been carried out remotely during this time have been required to be marked as ‘adjusted check undertaken on (date) due to COVID-19’. But, as long as all the other usual guidance has been followed correctly, this has been sufficient to establish the statutory excuse. It has always remained an offence to knowingly employ someone who doesn’t have the right to work in the UK, with the risk of the civil penalty being applied.
The temporary measure was originally due to end on 16th May 2021, but it was announced on 12th May 2021 - with less than a week to go - that it would be extended up to and including 20th June 2021 - in line with the roadmap out of lockdown restrictions in England. Due to the Government's decision to further delay the lifting of restrictions until 19th July 2021 and following extensive lobbying from industry, this new extension is welcomed by many.
Employers should note that, from 1st September, they will be required to revert back to the original guidance for right-to-work verification.
Despite the additional pressures placed on employers during the pandemic, the Government has made it clear that no allowances will be made for failure to uphold the legislation in place for the prevention of illegal working, it’s critical that employers ensure they’re fully compliant.
**Please note this blog is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for taking your own legal advice**
**Information up to date at the time of publication**