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Government makes it easier for employers to check Right to Work to protect safety

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The UK government has made temporary adjustments to Right to Work checks for employers to respect social distancing measures

As of March 30 2020 and until COVID-19 measures end, checks can be carried out over video call.

Instead of sending original documents for review, applicants and workers can now send scanned or photographed copies of their documents via email or a mobile app.

If a prospective or existing employee cannot provide any accepted documents at this time, the government has urged companies to refer to the Employer Checking Service.

However it has also warned businesses to ‘take extra care to ensure no-one is discriminated against as a job applicant or employee because they are unable to show you their documents.’

For checks made post COVID-19 it noted that employers will be asked to carry out retrospective checks on existing employees who started working for the company within the adjusted period and for those who required a follow-up right to work check.

Though overall supportive of the change Gillian McKearney, head of UK immigration at Fieldfisher, is concerned about what it will mean for employers following COVID-19 measures.

She told HR magazine: “In requiring employers to carry out retrospective checks viewing an original document within eight weeks of the COVID-19 measures ending, the concern is that in the chaos employers overlook this second step and inadvertently lose their defence against a civil penalty.

“Given the extent of the current disruption facing employers it would be more appropriate to scrap the requirement for a retrospective check – this seems unlikely to pose a risk of increased illegal working in the current environment and it would ease the burden on HR Managers at a very pressured time.”

Having campaigned for these changes to the Right to Work checks the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) has welcomed this move by the government.

Calling the need for face-to-face interaction, or posting original documents, an “unnecessary barrier” when employers have the need to quickly fill jobs Neil Carberry, CEO of the REC, said: “We are very pleased that the government has listened and taken action.

"These changes mean that Right to work checks for key workers, like doctors and nurses, can now be completed online, respecting social distancing measures. We now urge the procurement frameworks to follow the government in Health & Social Care and Education.”

The government said it will provide advance notice to employers for when the temporary measures are due to end.

Further reading:

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