UPDATE: The return of physical right to work checks has been postponed twice. Firstly, due to backlash from employers and authoritative bodies; and secondly, because of the delay to lockdown easing in the UK. The current date for the return of physical right to work checks is 1st September 2021.
On 30th March 2020, temporary changes were made to right to work checks, which included:
- Checks being carried out over video calls
- Job applicants and existing workers could send scanned documents or a photo of documents for checks using email or a mobile app, rather than sending originals
- Employers could use the Employer Checking Service if a prospective or existing employee cannot provide any of the accepted documents
From 1st September 2021, this will change and UK employers will need see physical documents when hiring.
In short, this means employers must be in possession of the original documents. Scanned documents will NO LONGER be accepted. Or, employers can use the Home Office right to work online service (only applicable for certain visa types and statuses; NOT British nationals). Also, the 8-week retrospective rule has been abolished. This means candidates hired between April 2020 and April 2021 DO NOT need to be re-checked.
Concerns regarding this change to right to work checks
Despite the Home Office’s interest in building a digital identity, this shift appears to be technology-adverse, and could severely impact people’s work options and business performance.
Firstly, the use of digital technology is considered more secure, is faster and efficient, and is better at deterring illegal working. This change is, overall, less secure and safe.
Secondly, the modern labour market has shifted towards flexible, remote working (spearheaded by the COVID-19 pandemic). This change could prove a serious challenge to the market.
And thirdly, this change will require new processes, which will slow down business performance, at a time when the economy is in a serious need of a boost.
What should employers do
The following approach should ensure compliance, whilst minimising the need for face-to-face right to work checks:
- You should look to put together an internal policy for right to work checks, which makes all relevant staff (recruitment, HR) aware of the change coming into force.
- Online right to work checks should be used where possible. The individual must be present at the time of the check, even via a live video link.
- You must allocate adequate resource that allows you and relevant staff to securely receive, review and return physical documents required for manual right to work checks. As an employer, you should consider conducting manual checks with with the individual present via a video link (rather than face to face).
By law, the way in which right to work checks will change on 1st September 2021, and must be performed in the aforementioned way.
With the lack of consideration for digital technology and the way the working population currently operate, it will be interesting to see where the Home Office go with this change; and if any more alterations will follow.