Right to Work Changes – COVID-19

Rebecca Blair |


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During the recruitment process, employers are required to check that candidates have the right to work in the UK before they can make them an offer of employment.

The typical Right to Work checks that normally would be done by employers include the checking of passports, biometric residence cards, and National Insurance numbers.

However, as the Coronavirus outbreak has led to many living in isolation and working from home, it has become more difficult for employers to carry out these critical Right to Work checks. Therefore, the UK Government has announced that they have made a temporary change to the process of checking an employee’s right to work to make the recruitment process easier for businesses during this unprecedented time.

Effective from 30th March 2020, employers can:

  • Complete Right to Work checks using video call
  • Receive scanned documents through email, or even a photo of the documents using a mobile app
  • Refer to the Employer Checking Service if any candidates cannot provide you with the required documentation

What does this mean for employers?

This means that, moving forward, the recruitment process is going to be very different than it was before.

Employers are still required to check candidates' right to work in the UK, however, there will be a few additional obstacles for businesses to overcome.

For example, confirming that documents belong to a specific candidate will be much more challenging. In a face-to-face interview it's easy to compare a face to a passport, however, without meeting the candidate in person, how will you know that the Right to Work documents are genuine?

The Government has now said that Right to Work checks can be completed using video call, so use that to your advantage. Ask candidates to show you the documents on the video call – this will help you to identify any inconsistencies.

Employers must also continue to be mindful of other important employment legislation, such as the Equality Act, during this time. Some potential workers may not be able to provide employers with their Right to Work evidence straight away due to the Coronavirus pandemic, and employers legally cannot reject them as a candidate due to this.

The positives of Right to Work checks being done online, however, outweigh the negatives. With the country currently on lockdown, many people are in isolation and therefore will not be able to attend face-to-face interviews, so being able to complete Right to Work checks over the internet is a significant benefit for businesses.

Also, from an employer’s point of view, interviewers would be putting themselves at risk of catching the virus by carrying out face-to-face interviews with many different candidates. Therefore, having the ability to carry out Right to Work checks online helps to avoid these risks, and will allow businesses to continue to recruit candidates during the pandemic, which is vital to mitigate the impact of the impending unemployment crisis.

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