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18 May 2021

Updated advice for carrying out right to work checks during the coronavirus pandemic

As the UK opens back up after months of lockdown, Woodcock Law provides an update on current Home Office guidance on right to work checks.
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes
Updated advice for carrying out right to work checks during the coronavirus pandemic

By Uchenna Kagha, Legal intern

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected millions of people globally, with employers changing the way in which right to work checks occur. 

Due to the easing of lockdown measures, the government has announced a policy to revert back to the normal face to face checks and the submission of physical documents for right to work. This is to start on 21st June 2021.



On 30 March 2020, the government announced a temporary shift to how employers should perform right to work checks as the usual face to face checks were deemed unsafe for both employers and prospective employees. This is to last till 20th June 2021. 

The following changes were implemented to align with the nationwide lockdown:

  1. Right to work visa check can be assessed via video conference/call
  2. The government has always been clear about the need for original documentation. However, due to the pandemic, applicants can send scanned documents and photo Identification via email or supported mobile application as an alternative.
  3. In the event that the prospective employee may not be able to account for the documents required, the employer should endeavour to use the ‘Employer Checking Service’.


An employer is required by law to perform these checks or be penalised as it is an offence to employ an individual who does not have a valid right to work.


How to check the right to work of a potential employee using the temporary Covid-19 measures.

Presently and up to 20th June 2021, it is possible to check for the right using the temporary format. Here are the criteria to satisfy to ensure its validity:

  1. The potential employee may be asked to arrange a video call/conference to validate the supported documentation. This will usually be done by asking the individual to hold up the original document to the camera and checking it against the scanned document. When this is done, the employer will record the date when the check was performed and label it as “adjusted check undertaken on [insert date] due to Covid-19.
  2. Additionally, if the prospective employee currently has a Biometric Residence Card or Permit or has been granted the right to remain under the EU Settlement Scheme, the employer may use the online right to work checking service. This is to be checked simultaneously whilst on a video call and requires permission (in the form of share code) from the applicant from the employer to view their details.


Retrospective Checks

As an employer, you are not required to undertake retrospective checks for individuals who had a COVID-19 adjusted check between the scheduled temporary period which is 30 March 2020 to 20 June 2021. This shows the dates during the national lockdown and is supportive of businesses in uncertain times

Further, an employer may be able to avoid a civil penalty if it can be proven that the checks carried out were done in the prescribed manner or as recommended by the COVID-19 adjusted checks guidance.


Unable to provide documentation

If the prospective employee is unable to provide the documentation required for the right to work check, the employer should contact the Home Office Employer Checking Service. If the potential employee has a right to work, the Employer Checking Service will send a ‘Positive Verification Notice and this will provide a legal reason for a period of 6 months from the date notice is given. 

Ready for assistance?

If you have any questions, or want to book an appointment with one of our legal experts, contact Woodcock Law today. Call us on +44 (0)20 7712 1705 or email

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