Right to Work checks to resume in person from May 17th

Right to Work checks resuming in person is concerning labour experts because many workplaces and offices are still locked down or closed completely due to covid-19 lingering.

From Monday May 17th, currently applicable ‘digital’ right to work checks will stop, meaning umbrella companies and other employers will no longer be able to accept a new worker’s scanned copy or a photo of original documents.

Introduced on March 30th to help stop the spread of coronavirus and reflect more remote working, the digital checks “have worked well and should not be stopped” says the REC.

'Does not make sense'

In a letter to home secretary Priti Patel, the Recruitment & Employment Confederation’s Kate Shoesmith says running the checks via video call rather than in-person should be allowed to continue until June 21st.

“The digital checks have hugely benefitted us all -- ensuring UK business and our workforces can operate as effectively as possible and respond to spikes in demand during the pandemic,” writes Ms Shoesmith, the REC’s deputy CEO.

“Removing the ability to perform these checks digitally, whilst the nation remains under some level of lockdown does not make sense and is an avoidable barrier”.

'Adjusted check undertaken due to covid'

Currently, and under the March concessions, an employer can arrange a video call with a worker and comply by asking them to hold up their original documents to the camera.

The employer then compares them to the digital copy which the worker has already emailed or sent via app and, if they match, writes “adjusted check undertaken on [date] due to covid.”

Keith Rosser, a workplace adviser, says the Home Office announcement last week that end-users must from May 17th possess the original documents represents a “hammer blow” to UK businesses.

“Alternatively employers can use the Home Office right to work online service,” Mr Rosser clarified in a LinkedIn post.

“[And this] does not require the employer to see or check the individual's physical documents. However this is…limited to certain visa types and status – i.e. not British Nationals.”

'Surely cannot be right'

As a result of the latter criteria, the adviser says it ‘surely cannot be right’  but that it will actually be faster for UK engagers to check and hire non-British nationals than British nationals.

 “This change doesn't make sense”, says Julia Kermode, former CEO of the Freelancer & Contractor Services Association, reflecting on the May 17th resumption. “Let's hope it's reviewed urgently.”

In her letter to the home secretary on Thursday, the REC’s Ms Shoesmith echoed: “[We] ask for a permanent review of right to work checks to reflect the learnings of the pandemic.

“We foresee many changes in work patterns with flexible and hybrid working -- and right to work checks should also evolve to adjust to this new reality.”

'Open review of right to work checks'

The confederation added: “We urgently ask government to abandon the proposed end date of 17th May, to delay these changes at least until lockdown is fully over, and furthermore to keep an open review of right to work checks going forward - particularly to allow for full consultation with all stakeholders, thus avoiding any unforeseen consequences.

“The last few months have allowed us to pilot digital right to work checks - and the system works.”

The Better Hiring Institute says it wants to hear from candidates about the Home Office plan, in the shape of a poll on whether right to work checks should remain digital; revert to being physical, or whether they are indifferent about which method is “better, safer, faster.”

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Written by Simon Moore

Simon writes impartial news and engaging features for the contractor industry, covering, IR35, the loan charge and general tax and legislation.
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