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Right to Work Checks – What’s New?

Photo of two passports and a date stamp
The government have changed how Right to Work documentation can be checked

Making and recording that candidates have the right to work in the UK is one of the most important and fundamental steps in recruiting a new employee. The process usually involves meeting the candidate face-to-face and physically checking their documentation – that it is genuine, unaltered, in-date and matches the information they have given you. It also involves making a copy and recording it in a secure place.

In light of the national emergency, recruiters need to place workers quicker than ever, but as employee numbers drop due to isolation or illness, demand is just as high as before. To help, the government has temporarily amended the rules so that it is acceptable for recruiters to check right to work documentation through video calls and by only seeing copies, not originals.

The candidate must send a clear scanned image or photo of the original document to the recruiter, who can then compare what they’ve been sent, over the video, with the candidate on view too. The date that the check is made must still be included, along with “adjusted check undertaken on [insert date] due to COVID-19” which is also slightly different to normal. Although this isn’t as thorough as physically holding and scanning the document themselves, this is enabling recruiters to safely engage workers as quickly as possible, without compromising the authenticating process.

The Recruitment & Employment Confederation has called this move “pragmatic” and said that it demonstrates how well the government and industries can work together to make sure needs are met on both sides.

The government further advises that care should be taken not to discriminate or show bias if a candidate cannot produce their original documents because of Covid-19, but that it is important to remember that it is still an offence to knowingly employ someone with no right to work in the UK. That rule, has not been changed. However, there is an online checking service that, with the candidates permission, can be accessed to check their status under the EU Settlement scheme or current Biometric Residence Permit or Card if they cannot send you copies of the documents.

The changes that have been made are not permanent, right now there is a need for avoiding contact and proximity to people which is restrictive, but as soon as those measures are not needed, it is safe to assume that the government will go back to the more secure way. Is that going to be a good idea? Will recruiters find that being able to work remotely helps them reach a more diverse pool of candidates who, for example, can’t drive to their office but can get to work? That remains to be seen and we’d love to hear your thoughts on how you are finding recruitment at this time - get in touch by emailing