"We couldn't verify your right to work"

By Emma McClelland - 24 February 2021

When Katherine* moved to the UK in September 2019, she was looking forward to building a new life. Both she and her British husband Tom* had worked in the media industry their entire lives, with Katherine producing a range of content, including reality shows and documentaries. Unbeknownst to her, she was about to become the protagonist in her own drama; one where confusion over her right to work as a pre-settled status holder would almost cost her a job opportunity.

A world on hold 

Like many people, Katherine and Tom had their aspirations put on hold when the Covid-19 pandemic struck. Katherine, a German passport-holder, applied to the government’s pre-settlement scheme and began looking for work. She knew that despite her established career, the media and creative industries had been heavily affected by restrictions, so she widened her net. “I just wanted to find my feet and create a new life in this new world we’ve found ourselves in,” she explained. 

In January after around 70 unsuccessful job applications, Katherine received a job description from a friend for a position at a social research company. “You had to complete an online application to get through the first step,” she recalled. “Then verify your right to work with Onfido, which I did successfully, and upload some documents. The next step was a ‘virtual welcome event’, which was essentially your interview prior to starting the job.”

"We’re sorry but..."

On the morning of her interview, Katherine received a call from the interviewer to request a biometric resident’s permit. As a European citizen who had gone through the government’s pre-settlement scheme, she didn’t have or need another permit. But the interviewer didn’t know that, and neither did their supervisor.  Shockingly, Katherine  was told that they would be unable to continue with the interview. 

“I asked whether they were sure, but that was that. So, I scrambled through government websites to see if I’d missed something, worrying that I’d missed a step in the process or that I did actually need the card. But I realised that I was correct; I didn’t need it.”

Despite ringing various hotlines, Katherine was unable to get through to anyone – until she came across our website. When she explained what had happened, we sent her a wealth of information, including links to the government website that clearly stated ‘right to work check’ requirements for employers, and our own YouTube videos that explain how to prove it using EUSS, and how to challenge discrimination in the workplace. Katherine sent this to the complaints address she had been given and began the waiting game.

“The wait for a response was tough. Knowing you were so close to an employment contract, and having it jeopardised, was incredibly frustrating.” 

"… we got it wrong"

On 8th Feb, Katherine received the news she’d been hoping for, in the form of an apology from the recruitment team. They admitted that they had, in error, told her she needed a biometric resident’s permit, and invited her to re-apply. “It was fantastic,” Katherine explained. “But without the information you sent me, I don’t know if I’d have got such a positive response.”

Katherine is re-interviewing for her role at the social research centre soon. Whether she gets the job or not, she is optimistic. While she was still waiting to hear back, one of our advisers helped her rewrite her CV in a format more suited to the UK market. What matters, she concludes, is that you don’t give up and ask for help when you need it.

“It’s always lovely to have someone to support the process because not everybody is able to fight their own case. Sometimes you don’t have access to the things you need. And when you hit a glitch like I did, it knocks the wind out of your sails. You wonder why you’re meeting this adversity when it’s so tough as it is. A lot of people probably just walk away in frustration and they shouldn’t have to. 

“I’d advise anyone experiencing something similar to get the right information from organisations like the Work Rights Centre and state your case. Don’t just let it go. I know it’s frustrating and you probably just had ten rejections and you don’t want to be rejected anymore, but you just have to keep going and fight for it.”


*Katherine is not her real name.

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