The Home Office has announced that the temporary, adjusted right to work measures, brought in in response to COVID-19, will come to an end on 16 May 2021.

Since 30 March 2020, employers have been able to carry out right to work checks over video calls, and employees have been able to send scans or photographs of their original documents, rather than sending the originals themselves.

From 17 May 2021 (arguably somewhat earlier than many business may have anticipated), employers must once again either:

  1. check the individual’s original documents; or
  2. (where employees are eligible, and willing to allow prospective employers to do so) use the Home Office’s online right to work check tool.

In many cases (and importantly, for all British nationals who do not qualify for the online service), option 1 above will apply. These checks must take place while the individual is physically present or via a live video link, but while the original documents are in the employer’s possession.

Employers will need to consider how to respond to this change. Many applicants are understandably apprehensive about sending original documents in the post and the potential COVID-19 risks associated with meeting in person will also need to be assessed. Furthermore, there is the added complication for employees coming from overseas, who could be self-isolating in line with government requirements, and consequently unable to attend any in-person checks.

Many employers will, however, welcome the concurrent announcement that retrospective checks will no longer be required. When the temporary measures were first implemented, the Home Office indicated that employers would need to carry out follow-up checks within eight weeks of the temporary measures coming to an end. It has, however, now been confirmed that this will not be required. As such, employers will maintain a statutory defence against a civil penalty where the check they performed was carried out in line with the COVID-19 adjusted guidance in place at that time.