The Home Office has relaxed its guidance for employers on carrying out their compulsory right to work checks to make it easier while the current stringent social distancing measures remain in place.

Previously employers were required to carry out either a manual or an online right to work check, before employing a person.

Under the new temporary measures, right to work checks can be carried out via video calls rather than in the presence of the worker or prospective employee, and employers will be permitted to accept scanned documents or photographs of documents via email or a mobile app, instead of requiring original documents to be sent to them.

Gurjit Pall, immigration law specialist at legal firm Thorntons, explained: “Where the prospective employee or existing worker sends a scanned copy or a photo of their original documents via email or using a mobile app, the employer should arrange a video call with the prospective employee or existing worker. The employer, during this video call, should ask the prospective employee or existing worker to hold up their original documents to the camera and check this against the digital copy of the documents sent to the employer prior to the video call.

“As per the existing requirements for right to work checks, employers will be expected to record the date the check was made; however under the new temporary measures, employers will be asked to mark the file copy of the check made with “adjusted check undertaken on [insert date] due to COVID-19”.

“Where the prospective employee or existing worker has a current biometric residence permit or biometric residence card or status under the EU Settlement Scheme, employers will be able to use the online right to work checking service while doing the video call. It is important that employers obtain permission from the applicant prior to viewing their details.”

He added: “These are temporary measures, and employers must keep all evidence and carry out retrospective checks within eight weeks of the COVID-19 measures ending. These retrospective checks will need to be carried out on existing employees who either started employment during these measures or required a follow-up right to work check during these measures.”

Mr Pall also warned that employers should take extra care to ensure that no one is discriminated against as a job applicant or employee because they are unable to show their documents. “The Home Office Employer Checking Service will continue to be operational and should be used where the job applicant or existing worker cannot show their documents.”

Significant civil and criminal penalties remain in place for failing to carry out the prescribed checks, or the temporary alternative measures.