Over the past few years there have been several changes to how employers must establish the right to work of their employees. It remains an offence to work illegally in the UK, so any individual identified who is disqualified from working by reason of their immigration status, may be liable to enforcement action.
Consequently, employees will be familiar with offer of employment letters and contracts of employment that make clear that offers are subject to establishing their right to work in the UK.
To validate a right to work, companies must complete a Right to Work Check.
Presently, there are three possible ways companies can complete a Right to Work Check:
- Pre-Pandemic 'manual' right to work checks - where employers inspect the original physical identity and status documents of job applicants and existing employees and make certified copies.
- Pandemic-Era 'adjusted' right to work checks - where checks can be carried out over video calls and employers can accept a scan or photo of identify and status documents.
- 'Home Office Online Service' right to work checks - where employers can verify the immigration status document of job applicants and existing employees directly with the Home Office in real time, via a government online tool.
The Government recently announced its intention to phase out manual checks in favour of moving employers to a largely online ecosystem by late 2022. Further, the Government intends to widen the scope of its online services, to enable employers to use Identification Document Validation Technology (IDVT) to carry out digital checks (for a fee) on British and Irish citizens who hold a valid passport from 6 April 2022.
Practically, what will these changes mean for companies is as follows:
- Firstly, manual right to work checks are being phased out for migrant workers. From 6 April 2022, all biometric card holders (and anyone with a digital status e.g. EU Settled Status) will need to evidence their right to work using the Home Office Online Service only. Employers will no longer be able to accept physical cards for the purposes of a right to work check.
- Secondly, a new online ecosystem of IDVT checks for British and Irish citizens will be introduced on 6 April 2022. The IDVT check will require identity and status documents to be validated digitally using a third party service provider and will carry a fee (which could vary from £1.45 to £70 per check). However, for employers reluctant to pay this fee, it should be noted that employers will still be able to complete an adjusted right to work check for British and Irish citizen until 30 September 2022, which will be free.
- Thirdly, adjusted checks for British and Irish nationals will come to an end on 30 September 2022. This temporary process was introduced during the pandemic, and has been extended several times, but following a recent final extension announcement, it will come to a hard end in autumn 2022. The government has deferred the end date of the adjusted checks to ensure employers have sufficient time to develop commercial relationships with IDVT third party service providers, make the necessary changes to their pre-employment checking processes and carry out responsible on-boarding of their chosen provider.
In general terms, these changes mean that from 6 April 2022, companies completing right to work checks for job applicants and existing employees who are migrant workers must do so via the Home Office Online Service (for free) and checks on British and Irish citizens should be completed via an adjusted check (for free – until 30 September 2022) or digitally via IDVT (which may carry a fee).
Please note that you do not need to carry out retrospective checks on those who had an adjusted check between 30 March 2020 and 30 September 2022 (inclusive). This reflects the length of time the adjusted checks have been in place and supports business during this difficult time.