Contractors, solutions to make your Digital Right to Work check seamless are almost out of time

The clock is ticking rather loudly on changes to how all Britons – including contractors -- will secure paid work in the future, writes Keith Rosser, director of Reed Screening and chair of the Better Hiring Institute.

Digital checks using scanning tech are as good as universally backed

In fact, in just a little over three weeks’ time, UK businesses up and down the country will be requesting that contractors, agency staff, and permanent employees alike scan their ID documents via online digital technology. 

Last Thursday, I was delighted to host an online event with the UK Home Office which saw almost 500 employers attend. What I learnt was how overwhelmingly positive, in principle, this move to digital is. Not even 1% of respondents said they don't want Digital Right To Work checks! Digitising the future of hiring will expand the horizons of organisations and workers, offering greater flexibility and opportunity.

Is everything on track?

All is not rosy however. More than half of employers (including those who engage contractors) revealed that they still do not have the full information required to implement Digital Right To Work (DRTW) checks. And that's with just a few weeks left before launch.

Interestingly, four in ten businesses said they wanted to see the government provide all the relevant information in a single, easy-to-access place.

Perhaps more worrying for the government, given the October 1st commencement date is fast-approaching, there are only ELEVEN certified IDSPs (Identity Service Providers), who are the ones meant to deal with hundreds of thousands of businesses. Assuming, that is, those businesses actually intend on hiring any new talent.

At the time of writing, many IDSPs cannot even respond to the demand properly, let alone implement a full service. The Home Office has not mandated the use of a certified service, but they have recommended it. That has unfortunately caused a huge bottleneck. 

The Home Office has said: “Whilst it will not be mandatory for employers…to use a certified IDSP for the purposes of right to work…checks, the Home Office recommends employers… use a certified IDSP.”

Implications for contractors of DRTW not (yet) being the full package

Why do bottlenecks and under-resourced employers matter to you, the job candidate? Well, it means delays, late implementation, no time to pilot or test the services. This likely means that barring a miracle, contractors will go into the unknown after September 30th 2022, exposed to new systems and processes that have had NO TIME to embed. 

Only one in five employers at our online event believed hiring in the UK is “fair.” A great concern of mine is that the unpreparedness, untested status and incompleteness of the digital right to work scheme will make hiring even less fair. Because, as it stands, there are just 20-something days to go until any Irish or British contractor going forward for work but who lacks an in-date passport will not be able to get any job remotely, meaning they will have to revert to meeting the engager face-to-face or potentially worse, sending their original passport in the post.

Speed-of-hire, scarcity, solutions...

This will severely disadvantage their ability as an individual to get work, as businesses are increasingly prioritising speed-of-hire. Many of those without in-date documents live in areas where local job opportunities are already the scarcest, so it disadvantages those already most disadvantaged.

Concerned, I have raised this issue with the minister of state Lord True, and the minister for levelling-up Greg Clark MP. I have also raised it with MPs in constituencies with some of the lowest rates of in-date passports. On a positive note, it has been heartening to see a range of parliamentary correspondence advocating the work I have done to make DRTW checks fit for the digital age but I must say this – a solution still very much needs to be found to tie up the considerable loose ends.

What’s next?

The prize of seamless hiring on an end-to-end digital basis is too great for the October 1st commencement date to be delayed, or for a scheme that limps out of the blocks to end up discriminating against large numbers of workers.

Digital right to work checks done properly will be what enables all of us to find and apply for work in the future and what will enable employers to take on talent with an unparalleled efficiency. It's the ultimate solution to the ‘problem’ of CVs (which have been with use since the Middle Ages), as contractors will in future apply for assignments with their ‘digital credentials.’

Digital hiring will also open up greater work opportunities and flexibility, breaking the boundaries of where and how people work. It will be safer too, with 76% of over 400 businesses rightly predicting that DRTW checks will better identify fake and fraudulent documents. So more genuine opportunities for legitimate workers.

Urgent

We have just a matter of days, and very busy days for Whitehall at that, to persuade the Home Office to refine the scheme to make it fully inclusive, and it's something I want to make sure we achieve. We must find solutions to the challenges still posed to Digital Right To Work checks becoming seamless.

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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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