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Out-Law News 3 min. read

UK right to work check concessions extended until April 2022

Temporary adjustments to the process for checking individual rights to work in the UK will now end on 5 April 2022, the Home Office has announced.

The UK government confirmed that the extension to the previous 31 August 2021 deadline in light of "the positive feedback we received about the ability to conduct checks remotely".

It said: "We initiated a review of the availability of specialist technology to support a system of digital right to work checks in the future. The intention is to introduce a new digital solution to include many who are unable to use the Home Office online checking service, including UK and Irish citizens. This will enable checks to continue to be conducted remotely but with enhanced security. Deferring the end date of the adjusted checks to 5 April 2022 ensures the right to work scheme continues to operate in a manner which supports employers, whilst we look to implement a long-term, post-pandemic solution."

Under the revised plans, from 6 April 2022, employers must once again check individuals’ original documents, rather than scans or photographs of the originals, or use the Home Office’s online right to work check tool. Checks must be performed in the physical presence of the individual or via a live video link, while the original documents are in the possession of the employer.

The Home Office has, however, confirmed that employers will not be required to carry out full right to work checks retrospectively where a Covid-19 adjusted check was carried out while the concessions were in force, between 30 March 2020 and 5 April 2022. Where the worker’s right to work was time-limited, additional checks required after 6 April 2022 must be carried out under the usual rules.

Immigration law expert Joanne Hennessy of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said: “Unless individuals are eligible, and willing, to use the online checking service, from 6 April 2022 employers will have to secure their original documents and either check them in their physical presence or via live video link".

"This will be the case for all British nationals, for example, who do not qualify for the online service. New arrivals to the UK may also be working remotely whilst self-isolating under Covid-19 requirements, making in-person checks impossible. Employees are, understandably, often nervous about sending original documents of this nature to enable checks via video link,” she said.

Introduced in response to the pandemic, the Covid-19 right to work check adjustments provide employers with a defence against a civil penalty where checks are performed based on scanned copies or photos of original documents. Checks can be carried out over video link, with the original documents in the possession of the individual. Alternatively, the employer may use the Home Office’s right to work check tool, with the permission of the individual, while in contact with them over video link.

The Home Office’s online right to work checking service is available in respect of individuals who hold a biometric residence permit or residence card, or who has been granted UK immigration status under the EU settlement scheme or points-based immigration system. The service can only be used with the permission of the individual, and employers are not permitted to discriminate against applicants who refuse to allow access to their records.

Businesses which employ individuals that they knew, or had reasonable cause to believe, did not have the right to work in the UK face civil and criminal penalties.

Editor's note 30/08/21: This story has been updated to reflect the government's announcement that this concession will now end on 5 April 2022.

Editor's note 18/06/21: This story has been updated to reflect the government's announcement that this concession will now end on 31 August 2021.

Editor's note 12/05/21: This story has been updated to reflect the government's announcement that this concession will end on 20 June 2021 and not 16 May 2021, as previously announced.

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