The United Kingdom, like the United States, has formally announced an alternative, temporary method by which employers may conduct right to work (RTW) checks during the coronavirus pandemic, when employers have instituted telecommuting and work-from-home arrangements and thus are onboarding newly hired employees remotely.  Because it remains an offence in the United Kingdom to knowingly employ anyone who does not have the right to work in the UK, these temporary measures provide a practical means for an employer to conduct these checks and verify a worker’s right to work when employees are telecommuting during the COVID-19 period. Specifically, as of March 30, 2020, the UK Home Office has suspended the employer requirement to view original RTW documents of new hires, allowing checks to be undertaken over video calls.  When verifying the RTW of newly hired employees or re-verifying the RTW of employees with time-limited work authorization, the following process may now be followed:

  • Employers may carry out checks over video calls.
  • Job applicants and existing workers may send scanned documents or a photo of documents using email or a mobile app, rather than sending originals to the employer to view.
  • During the video call, the worker should hold up the original documents to the camera so the employer can check them against the digital copy of the documents.
  • Employers should record the date the check was conducted 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, employers may continue to use the online right to work checking service while doing the video call.  This online option was available prior to the introduction of these temporary measures.
  • Employers should use the Home Office Employer Checking Service if a prospective or existing employee cannot provide any of the accepted RTW documents.
  • Within 8 weeks after the COVID-19 measures end, employers should carry out a retrospective check for those employees verified under the temporary measures and mark the check: “the individual’s contract commenced on [insert date]. The prescribed right to work check was undertaken on [insert date] due to COVID-19.”
  • Both checks, the initial and the retrospective, should be kept on file.