For the past two years, due to lockdowns and work from home guidance, employers have been able to carry out right to work checks remotely. These arrangements were due to end in April 2022 with the introduction of a new digital framework, however, this has been delayed and remote checks have now been extended.
It is a criminal offence for an employer to employ a person who does not have a right to work in the UK. However, there is a statutory defence where the employer has checked the original of a prescribed document and can evidence this. The availability of this defence was obviously affected during lockdown as it would often have proved impractical to carry out in person checks of original documents and therefore the rules were temporarily relaxed to allow for remote check of documents to be carried out. The intention being that a new digital checking system would be in place by April.
Electronic checks have already been introduced for EU and EEA nationals and those working on visas, with digital checks on those settled in the UK due to be introduced from April 2022. However, the government has announced that the introduction of these digital checks has now been delayed and as a result it has confirmed that remote right to work checks will remain in place until September 2022.
Once introduced, it is intended that the new digital checking arrangements will allow both businesses and individuals the option of either using traditional face to face checks or engaging with an accredited provider who can verify status. It is understood that providers are now beginning the accreditation process, and an April deadline was always perhaps a little ambitious. However, when the new system is eventually rolled out, it is hoped that it will offer recruiters greater flexibility in conducting right to work checks.
Theresa Mimnagh is Associate Director at the recruitment and employment law specialists Lawspeed.
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