Digital Right to Work checks extended, again, until August 31st 2021

Digital Right to Work checks have been extended until August 31st, after campaigners warned that reverting to physical checks would delay 300,000 people a week from starting new jobs.

Announced on Friday, the extension represents the second time the government has deferred the return of in-person checks, which it initially wanted to bring back on May 17th.

But both hirers saying digital is more efficient, and the spread of the more transmissible covid variant Delta, will not necessarily succeed again in keeping the “temporary changes” in place.

'End of digital checks'

In newly published guidance for employers, under the heading ‘End of Covid-19 adjusted checks,’ the Home Office now says: “Adjusted checks are ending on 31 August 2021

“From 1 September 2021, employers are required to carry out right to work checks as set out in legislation and guidance.

“Checks should be carried out either face to face with physical document checks or using the Home Office online service.”

'Barrier'

Concerned, because physical checks are a ‘barrier to modern, hybrid, remote work,’ the Better Hiring Institute says it will today join a parliamentary event to keep the checks digital for good.

In fact, the institute’s chair Keith Rosser will join Dean Russell MP to explain how in-person checking “limits the UK’s ability to compete globally,” to the “detriment” of businesses.

And businesses themselves seem to widely agree.

'Archaic'

Stonebridge Contracting’s head of compliance Olivia Graham took to LinkedIn to reflect:

“[We welcome] another postponement to the reintroduction of physical right to work checks until 1st September 2021.

“Personally, I would like to see the ability to conduct RTW checks via video call stick around after covid," she said. "But it feels like we might be a way off from modernising an archaic system.”

'Permanent solution'

On behalf of agencies, the REC says it welcomes the extension of digital RTW checks, partly because such a check takes just five minutes, versus 45 minutes for a physical check.

“We will [now] participate in further meetings and consultation with Home Office on a permanent solution [for digital checks],” says the REC’s deputy CEO Kate Shoesmith.

She added: “Digital Right to Work checks have saved employers time and money and helped people get back into work quickly while public health measures have been in place.

“Our experience is that they have also raised compliance levels. It makes no sense for government to shoot themselves in the foot and return to mandating in-person checks when the use of digital checks has been a success story of the pandemic.”

'Beggars belief'

A recruiter who specialises in Projects and Change, Mags Arthur, was even more straight-talking: “It beggars belief that the Home Office want us to return to in-person checks.”

She continued: “Remote checking of RTW has allowed us to hire in geographical areas across the UK previously unavailable due to constraints of in-person checks.

“It has also allowed those previously disadvantaged due to inability to travel to secure WfH roles…[and] the remote/video checking is as secure -- if not more secure -- than in-person checks.”

'Employers must plan for September 1st'

But at the time of writing and barring a third extension in the run-up to August 31, the government’s advice to employers, including agencies and umbrellas is clear.

“It’s good to hear that the government is postponing the reintroduction of physical document Right to Work checks until 1st September 2021 but a permanent move to digital checks has not been confirmed by the Home Office,” says Clarity Umbrella’s managing director Lucy Smith.

“And so after 31st August, employers must plan to either check an applicant's original documents, or check their right to work status online if they have given you a share code.”

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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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