Amended right to work checks to remain until 21 June 2021
If you are a UK employer, you have a responsibility to ensure that all your employees are legally allowed to work in the UK. This is normally done by conducting a manual or online check of the person’s ‘right to work’ documents, as stipulated by the Home Office.
Illegal working can leave employees vulnerable to exploitation and negatively impacts on the wages of legal workers. It can also lead to breaches of the national minimum wage and, in the most serious of cases, what is commonly known as modern slavery.
As a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant lockdown, face to face right to work checks have had to stop. Consequently, the Government updated its guidance for employers who need to carry out these checks, allowing employers to conduct checks via video call. Job applicants and employees can also send scanned copies of their documents via the Government app or email, meaning they do not have to send original documents in the post.
The updated guidance was introduced on 30 March 2020 and was due to end on 20 April 2021. However, because there are still restrictions in place, the Government has decided to extend the period for which this guidance remains binding until 21 June 2021.
Employers will need to be aware that some individuals may not be able to present the documents needed to evidence their right to work due to the pandemic. In these circumstances, employers should be vigilant and careful that they do not unlawfully discriminate against individuals (e.g., asking someone to prove their right to work because of their race or country of origin).
Failure to carry out the checks resulting in the employment of an illegal worker can lead to various sanctions for employers including, but not limited to:
- a fine of up to £20,000 per illegal worker;
- closure of the business;
- the earnings made as a result of employing the illegal workers being seized; and
- in the most serious of cases, a criminal conviction and a prison sentence of up to 5 years and an unlimited fine.
Any employer who has migrant workers should familiarise themselves with the Employer’s Guide to Right to Work Checks issued by the Home Office to make sure they are complying with their obligations.