The Government has introduced an order changing the requirements for checking the right to work of current and prospective employees. This will come into force on 16 May 2014.

Currently it is necessary for specified documents to be checked and copied at the start of employment and yearly (where the worker's immigration status is temporary). If this is done correctly, it will provide a defence against a civil penalty for employing an illegal worker, which is a maximum of £20,000 per worker.  However, the details of how and when the checks should be undertaken will change. Employers must follow the new procedures from 16 May in relation to new joiners. In addition, employers will need to find out the expiry dates for current temporary workers in order to put the revisions into effect.

The main changes are as follows:

  • removing the need for annual checks on those who have a temporary status and introducing a requirement to carry out a check when their status is due to expire;
  • introducing a mechanism for establishing a defence for a period of six months for outstanding immigration applications and appeals, and a 28 day period of flexibility in certain cases;
  • requiring employers of migrant students to ‘obtain and retain details of the term and vacation dates of the course the employee or prospective employee is undertaking’;
  • ruling that some expired passports and Biometric Residence Permits will not be acceptable documents;
  • creating a revised list A and list B of acceptable documents which reduces the range that are permissible (including removal of letters from the Home Office, non-passport travel documents and work permits which are not in a passport or biometric residence permit);
  • removing the requirement to make a copy of the front cover of passports that have been checked;
  • requiring that the dates that copies of documents are made is recorded;
  • introducing a new Code of Practice on avoiding discrimination when carrying out these checks.