Government makes digital right to work checks permanent

The government used the Christmas 2021 holidays to announce that digital Right To Work checks are staying in operation indefinitely.

In a paper dated December 27th, officials explained that all UK employers will be able to conduct a fully digital hiring process for all staff, including contractors, from April 6th 2022.

That’s because it won’t just be only employers who can use soon-to-be certified service providers of new Identification Document Validation Technology (IDVT).

'Temporary adjustment'

Rather, the technology will be used by the Disclosure and Barring Service too, meaning new workers needing security clearance can also be checked entirely remotely from April 6th.

Digital right to work checks were only introduced because of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, as a “temporary adjustment.”

But the new system removing the need for employers, agencies and umbrella companies to meet candidates in person proved massively popular as it was more efficient, not just safer.

'Overwhelmingly pro-digital Home Office survey results'

Since then, a Home Office poll on physical versus digital right to work checks might have clinched the policy change, as it came back “overwhelmingly pro-digital.”

Writing for ContractorUK, the Better Hiring Institute’s Keith Rosser today warns that despite his characterisation of the poll results, a lot of work now needs to be done before April 6th.

“[The] many things still to resolve [include] costs,” he posted in an update, citing market estimates per digital check varying from 50 pence to £25 per candidate.

“For volume, companies can negotiate transactional costs downwards…[and remember from April 6th 2022], employers can still use the face-to-face route for free.”

'Two-tier system'

But the slower in-person route will be the only alternative to the new IDVT-led system, because the “temporary adjustment” facilitated by Skype and Teams will end then.

So on top of the outstanding issues like costs, supplier certification (given employers must use only certified IDVT providers), and functionality (notably how both RTW and DBS checks will be enabled in one fell swoop), practical questions arise for candidates.

And for contractors especially. A director at Reed Screening, Mr Rosser outlines today that those question include if their post-April 6th engager will be IDVT-ready; or if an inevitably “two-tier system” will disadvantage them.

'Reducing time, mitigating risk'

To head-off the prospect of having to meet in-person with documents (in the event the engager is not IDVT-ready), the recruitment director even advises contractors to switch to any new assignment in advance of April 6th, or else risk having to abide by the ‘old’ guidance for a physical RTW check.

In in its December policy paper, the government states: “Using IDVT allows people to upload images of their personal documents, instead of presenting physical documents to a prospective employer – reducing time and mitigating risk.”

Authored by the Home Office, DBS and DCMS, the paper adds: “Enabling the use of IDVT for right to work, right to rent and DBS checks will help to support long-term post pandemic working practices, accelerate the recruitment and onboarding process, improve employee mobility and enhance the security and integrity of the checks.”

'Concerned by the potential costs'

Welcoming the move amid Omicron-driven staff shortages, Neil Carberry, CEO of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation posted: “Permanent digital right to work checks [is big news]. But [there is] lots of work…to do to get them to a processing cost every agency can afford.”

In a separate update, Mr Carberry explained that the Home Office said the project cost of a digital RTW check, ranging from “£1.45 to £70 per check,” would need to be met by employers.

“We remain concerned by the potential costs of the system,” he warned. “The REC conservatively estimates that its member recruitment businesses conduct around 300,000 RTW checks every week. As a result, this could result in millions of pounds of extra costs for business at a time when many are still struggling from the impact of the pandemic.”

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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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