What HR needs to know about Brexit right to work checks from 1 July
Brexit has changed a lot in the world of work. Companies exporting goods to the EU need to meet Rules of Origin requirements, to avoid costly tariffs. But for HR professionals, the most significant change is to the process of conducting right to work checks for EU/EEA/Swiss members of staff.
Here’s what HR professionals can do to ensure that they respect the law, and their teams with right to work checks for EUSS status holders.
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Know the rules
Until the 30th of June, the Home Office is giving employers and workers a so-called ‘grace period’. During this time, a passport or national identity card will be enough to satisfy right to work checks for EU nationals - and employers won’t have to conduct further retroactive checks. New right to work checks will only apply to staff hired from 1 July.
Know the people
It’s easy to think of the EUSS as applying to EU passport holders only. But, in practice, it’s a little more varied than that.
Status under the EUSS is available to EU/EEA/Swiss citizens who came to the UK before the end of the Brexit transition period (31 Dec 2021), and to their family. This can include children, partners, parents and other dependent family members - including those who hold a non-EU nationality.
So, remember, just because someone has a non-EU passport, it doesn’t mean they don’t have rights under the EUSS. The only people who won’t need to apply are Irish citizens, or those who already hold a British passport, or have indefinite leave to remain.
From the onset, the EUSS was designed as a digital-only application. It is made, accessed, and maintained online - and digitally is also how it can prove someone’s right to work.
EUSS status holders will need the ID and contact details they used when they made their application to log in to an electronic portal. This is where they can view and update their details and issue their employers with a share code.
Employers complete the second side of the digital puzzle. Access the ‘View a job applicant’s right to work’ service, available online on GOV.UK. With the share code and the job applicant’s date of birth, you can view a confirmation of the applicant’s name, face, and immigration status.
There is no further physical proof of the right to work, and it’s important to remember that. The Home Office has an audit record of online checks conducted by employers using the service. Employers will simply be prompted to file a digital copy of the online confirmation and store it for two years.
Though online right to work checks are generally simple, one complexity to be mindful of comes from delays.
At the beginning of May 2021, the Home Office reported having as many as 320,000 pending EUSS applications. It is likely that at least some of those will continue to be pending from 01 July, when the grace period ends. So, what then?
The Home Office recommends that employers looking to hire a candidate whose EUSS status is pending ask the candidate for their EUSS Unique Application Number. The candidate can find this in an email sent by the Home Office on the day they made the application - or alternatively, by calling the EU Resolution Centre.
Inputting the UAN in the Employer Checking Service, employers can then ask the Home Office to provide an update on the application. This usually takes five days. Most importantly, it fulfills employers’ obligation to perform a right to work check.
Another complexity to prepare for, is that digital right to work checks won’t come naturally to all job applicants. Some will have lost their login details and need a little longer to generate the share code. This is why patience, and a recruitment process that gives applicants enough time, are key.
When it comes to immigration, there is a lot at stake, for workers and employers alike. If a business is found to have not carried out the prescribed checks, it may face fines of up to £20,000, or criminal prosecution in the most serious cases where undocumented workers were knowingly employed.
But it is important to follow these rules with calm and focus - without throwing employment rights under the Brexit bus. After all, employers don’t just have immigration law to comply with. They must also uphold the principle of non-discrimination.
The Work Rights has prepared a video guide, explaining how workers can generate the share code online. Read it and sign up to our newsletter for updates. For a deep dive into right to work questions, remember to check the Home Office Employer Helpline, or view their online guide.
Dora-Olivia Vicol is co-founder and director of the Work Rights Centre