The government have today announced that employers will continue to be able to carry out right-to-work checks remotely and receive ID documentation for the purposes of those checks digitally until 5 April 2022.

All employers are required to conduct checks on the eligibility of their workforce to work in the UK before any new starters begin working for them.

If an employer is found to have employed someone who does not have the right to work and the employer did not carry out the correct checks (or did not carry them out properly), they can be fined up to £20,000 per employee.

If the employer knew or had “reasonable cause to believe” that the employee did not have the right to work in the UK, the individual manager/employer can be jailed for 5 years and pay an unlimited fine.

In March 2020 at the start of the pandemic, the government announced a change to the rules around ID checks to the effect that:

  • ID checks can be carried out over video calls;
  • job applicants and existing workers can send scanned documents or a photo of documents for checks using email or a mobile app, rather than sending originals; and
  • employers should use the Home Office Employer Checking Service if a prospective or existing employee cannot provide any of the accepted documents.

Today the government has announced the extension of these temporary rules until 5 April 2022, presumably in light of the continued predominance of remote working (notwithstanding the easing of legal restrictions on in-office work).

Employers, employment lawyers and HR professionals will no doubt watch with interest to see if ultimately these new rules will be extended indefinitely if the current trend around remote working continues.