Coronavirus (COVID-19): right to work checks

Advice for employers carrying out right to work checks during the coronavirus pandemic.

This update replaces previous guidance issued on 22 February 2022.

The adjustments to right to work checks introduced on 30 March 2020 as part of the response to coronavirus (COVID-19), will end on 30 September 2022.

The end date for the temporary adjusted checks had previously been deferred to 30 September 2022. The date was deferred following the government’s announcement enabling the use of identification document validation technology (IDVT) from 6 April 2022 by employers carrying out digital checks on British and Irish citizens who hold a valid passport.

Read further information on digital identity checks.

Deferring the end date ensured that employers had sufficient time to develop commercial relationships with identity service providers, make the necessary changes to their pre-employment checking processes and carry out responsible on-boarding of their chosen provider.

It has also ensured that the right to work scheme has continued to support long-term, post-pandemic working practices, providing sufficient time to put measures in place to enable face to face document checks if employers do not wish to adopt digital checks for British and Irish citizens with a valid passport (or Irish passport card).

From 1 October 2022, employers must carry out one of the prescribed checks before employment commences, as set out in guidance.

These checks are:

  1. a manual right to work check

  2. a right to work check using IDVT through the services of an identity service provider (IDSP)

  3. a Home Office online right to work check

Conducting any of these checks will provide employers with a statutory excuse which is a defence against a civil penalty.

Further information for employers on how to conduct these checks is available on the Right to work checks: an employer’s guide.

Online right to work service

Where a right to work check has been conducted using the Home Office right to work online service, the information is provided in real time directly from Home Office systems and there is no requirement for employers to see or check the individual’s documents.

Employers cannot insist individuals use this service or discriminate against those who choose to use accepted documents to prove their right to work.

The Right to work checks: an employer’s guide has a list of acceptable documents.

Retrospective checks

Employers do not need to carry out retrospective checks on those who had a COVID-19 adjusted check between 30 March 2020 and 30 September 2022 (inclusive). This reflects the length of time the adjusted checks have been in place.

Employers will maintain a defence against a civil penalty if the check undertaken during this period was done in the prescribed standard manner or as set out in the COVID-19 adjusted checks guidance.

It remains an offence to work illegally in the UK. Any individual identified who is disqualified from working by reason of their immigration status, may be liable to enforcement action.

If the job applicant or existing worker cannot show their documents

Employers must contact the Home Office Employer Checking Service. If the person has a right to work, the Employer Checking Service will send you a ‘positive verification notice’. This provides you with a statutory excuse for 6 months from the date in the notice.

Published 30 March 2020
Last updated 27 September 2022 + show all updates
  1. Updated information for employers carrying out right to work checks from 1 October.

  2. Guidance updated to reflect the extended end date for the temporary adjusted checking process is now 30 September 2022.

  3. Guidance updated to reflect extended end date of 5 April 2022.

  4. Updated as the end date for the temporary adjusted checking processes is now 31 August 2021.

  5. Updated as the end date for the temporary adjusted checking processes is now 21 June.

  6. Updated as the temporary adjustments introduced because of coronavirus end on 16 May 2021.

  7. First published.