Tight EU settled status deadline risks workplace fraud

Employers need to be wary of false identity documents following the deadline for EU workers to apply for settled status ending.

EU citizens who missed the 1 July application deadline to carry on living in the UK via the UK government’s EU Settlement Scheme, won't lose their work to right in the UK instantly.

The UK government said that people who have not had their applications processed yet will have their rights protected while they are waiting for a decision.

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John Dobson, CEO at ID verification specialist SmartSearch, advised employers to have a quick and secure method of verifying the identity of new employees.

Dobson said the strict deadline has posed a risk that organised crime gangs will exploit an opportunity to provide sophisticated false ID documents such as passports and driving licences.

He said: “What we are likely to see is a surge in false ID documents being circulated and organised crime taking full advantage of the situation.

“Many of the sectors which traditionally rely on EU citizens as part of its workforce, such as construction, hospitality and retail, have of course been hardest hit by the pandemic. This could prove to be a further challenge to the stability of their business.”

The government has said it will extend the deadline by 28 days in some cases where there are reasonable grounds.

This is due to the estimated 400,000 applications that still need to be processed, from more than five million people who have so far applied.

Just over half the applicants (52%) have been granted settled status, meaning they have indefinite leave to remain living and working in Britain.

Another 43% have pre-settled”status, where permission to stay is limited to five years.

According to the home office, only 2% of applications have been refused. 

Suzanne Staunton, employment partner at JMW Solicitors, said HR teams need to ensure that they are not acting in a discriminatory fashion, when conducting ID checks.

She told HR magazine: “Employers should seek proof of a statutory excuse for all employees joining their company, namely documentation proving their right to work, like a passport or ID card.

"The home office right to work service will issue digital proof of immigration status for most EU citizens with settled status.

“Therefore, the risk of ID fraud is minimal.”

Staunton added that if digital proof from the home office is not available, employers should ask for original documentation, or certified documentation if a copy is being provided, so that they can verify the document is true.

“Employers do not have a duty to retrospectively check whether EU citizens who were employed on or before 30 June 2021 have a right to work.

“As long as they were employed before that date, and their initial right to work checks were conducted in accordance with the EU Settlement Scheme guidance," she said.