Farmers warned of risks of fake ID for new EU workers

Farmers who employ new EU workers are being warned that they need to be alert to the possibility of people using fake ID papers to prove their right to work in the UK.

To continue to live and work in the UK after 1 July 2021, workers must have applied to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) for settled or pre-settled status by 30 June 2021.

The passing of this deadline means that EU citizens can no longer rely on a European Economic Area (EEA) passport or national identity card to prove their right to work. They must now supply evidence of their lawful immigration status in the UK, in the same way as other foreign nationals.

See also: Deadline looms for EU settled status applications

Official guidance

Rachel Chambers, NFU policy adviser for skills and employment, said employers should follow the recently updated government guidance (PDF) on right-to-work checks.

“It is worth pointing out that to gain a statutory excuse to risks of illegal working, employers must carry out checks in the way prescribed by this guidance,” she says.

The statutory excuse is essentially an employer’s defence if found to be employing an illegal worker, which applies provided they have carried out checks as required and do not have actual knowledge of the person’s illegal status.

The guidance explains that most EEA citizens who are resident in the UK should have been provided with digital evidence of their right to work.

To prove their right to work from 1 July 2021, individuals should be able to supply a share code and their date of birth which will enable the employer to check their status with the Home Office’s online service.

Anyone who made an application to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) up to and including 30 June 2021 and is waiting for a decision on that application can continue to live in the UK and maintain a right to work until their application is finally determined.

Employers should be able to ask for a share code to see the employee’s digital certificate of application, which can then be checked using the Employer Checking Service.

There is no requirement for a retrospective check to be undertaken on any EEA citizens who entered into employment in the UK up to and including 30 June 2021.

Employers will maintain a continuous statutory excuse against liability for a civil penalty if the initial checks were undertaken in line with the guidance that applied at the time they made the check.

A company which offers an online ID verification check service is warning farmers that they need to be aware of the potential rise in false documents being circulated by people without settled status.

John Dobson, SmartSearch chief executive, says employers need to have a secure method of verifying the identity of new employees.

“The government may well be hoping that EU citizens who fail to achieve settled status will be on the next plane or ferry home, but that is just not going to be the case,” he said.

“What we are likely to see is a surge in false ID documents being circulated, and organised crime taking full advantage of the situation.”

The implications of taking on workers without being able to prove that appropriate checks were carried out could be serious for farming businesses.

The civil penalty for employing an illegal worker who does not have the right to work in the UK, and where appropriate checks were not carried out, can be as much as £20,000 per worker.