Securing work after RTW goes digital on October 1st will be quite a job without an in-date passport

In under eight weeks, the Home Office’s new Right to Work changes mean any contractor without an in-date British / Irish passport, or in-date visa, will not be able to get jobs remotely, writes Keith Rosser, director of Reed Screening and chair of the Better Hiring Institute.

The background is much brighter. Hundreds of thousands of UK workers (including contractors) have benefitted from temporary right to work changes during the covid-19 pandemic. And those changes enabled people to get jobs remotely, online.

For anyone without in-date passports this is all going to change, and soon. In particular, from September 30th 2022, there will be no more right to work checking by video interview.

Hiring done the old-fashioned way

I’m pleased to say I’ve personally helped drive this permanent change to what will be digital right to work checks, to enable entirely digital-remote hiring. But there is a gap.

Under the current proposed scheme which is centred around the usage of certified digital identity providers, any contractor with an expired British or Irish passport, or any contractor without a passport entirely, will not be included in the scheme. That exclusion means they will be left to have to secure work the old-fashioned way -- by attending, in-person, a hirer's physical office.

Unfortunately, delays at the UK Passport Office compound the issue. That’s why I warned ContractorUK readers about this back in May. But the current delays are so extensive that any contractor who is reading this now with a passport soon to expire is very unlikely to be able to renew in time. Not having an in-date passport could very well cost some contractors that lucrative placement they’ve got their eye on!

Working with UK government

Research carried out alongside The Open University’s Professor Jon G Hall has identified as many as one in five UK citizens as being without in-date passports. It’s a statistic that becomes worse in the regions of the UK, furthest from the major cities. 

The previous minister for ‘Levelling Up,’ and the new minister (following the mass resignations that rocked Number 10), both wrote to Home Office on my behalf outlining the issue and the potential solutions. I have been privy to a letter sent to the House of Lords from the Minister of State acknowledging the issue, thanking me for my efforts in transforming digital hiring and -- most importantly -- agreeing to look at the proposals with the aim of finding a solution before September 30th 2022. So I am hopeful we can still find the answer in time. It would be a great shame for many work-seekers and contractors if a solution cannot be found and quickly implemented.

Check your umbrella payslip for the JobsAware logo

This is not the only issue affecting contractors right now of course. As the chair of a charity supported by UK government, JobsAware, I’m proud to say we recently launched an awareness scheme in the umbrella sector, whereby proactive umbrella companies are now carrying the ‘JobsAware’ logo on their contractors’ payslips.

The inclusion of this logo is to raise awareness of the free help and advice service from the charity that, perhaps most importantly, is there for contractors to report their issues or concerns to. Already JobsAware receive around 30 reports a week on a range of issues and abuses. It’s valuable intelligence that is then used to inform UK government policy. 

At the time of writing, we are in discussions with all the UK and devolved nation supply frameworks, with a view that all recruitment agencies supplying to government will use umbrella companies involved in the JobsAware scheme. And why not? What have the legitimate umbrella companies got to lose by simply signposting a government-backed help and advice scheme for contractors?

My ultimate vision is for JobsAware to be seen by all umbrella contractors via their payslips, so newcomers to contracting and veterans of freelance work alike know where to get free help and advice, and be able to report issues or concerns, should they need to. Together industry, government, and contractors can clean up the umbrella sector. 

Finally, first things first – stopping the emergence of second-class job candidates

But more immediately, my sights are fixed on ensuring that work-seekers without valid passports don’t become second-class job candidates. Fortunately, there is a ‘Live Event with UK Home Office’ planned in just four weeks – where employers and others can ask officials any questions about the new scheme. But that September 1st event is too close for comfort to the deadline of September 30th, after which time individuals will no longer be permitted to verify their right to work remotely, if they have an expired or out-of-date passport (or birth certificate). Due to the positive sounds so far by The Home Office, I am still confident that we can arrive at a scheme by the deadline that is fair for all.

Profile picture for user Keith Rosser

Written by Keith Rosser

Keith Rosser is a labour market expert with almost 20 years working in hiring. Currently a Group Director at Reed, the UK's largest family-owned recruitment business, and Chair of 2 joint UK government and industry bodies: the Better Hiring Institute and JobsAware.
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