Return of physical right-to-work checks postponed

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The government is pushing back the reintroduction of face-to-face right-to-work checks until 21 June.

The Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) and the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) were among the organisations that have been lobbying the government to postpone the requirement for organisations to resume physical checks of right-to-work documents, after the Home Office updated its guidance to say they would need to do so from 17 May.

During the pandemic, organisations have been able to check an individual’s right to work in the UK virtually, by getting them to submit a scanned copy or photo of the original via email and then asking workers to hold up the original document on a video call.

APSCo said it was relieved that the proposed return of physical checks have been delayed until the date the government expects all Covid-19 restrictions will be lifted, 21 June, but was disappointed that a permanent move to digital checks had not been confirmed by the Home Office.

Tania Bowers, legal counsel and head of public policy at APSCo, said: “We wrote to the home secretary in April highlighting our concerns over both the timing of the proposed return to physical checks, which at least has now been addressed, but also the fact that a return to physical checks will disproportionately disadvantage UK workers. This is because there is already an online checking service via a share code for EU nationals which can be remote and for non-EU workers through the Government Employer Checking Service. However, the Passport Office has no online service for UK nationals.

“Additionally, physical checking does not mean safer. People are not as good as technology is at spotting fraudulent documents. We had hoped that the Home Office would prioritise the expansion of digital checks – a process much more suitable for the modern world of flexible work – it also flies in the face of the Home Office’s ‘digital by design’ concept and we will continue to lobby government for a permanent digital check which have worked so well over the last year.”

REC campaigns director Shazia Ejaz said: “This is a big win for recruiters. It allows them to continue with digital checks while social distancing is still in place.

“We will continue to push for digital checks to remain in place for the long haul. REC members have proven that these checks work and increase efficiency for all concerned.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We have kept in close contact with employers throughout the pandemic to ensure we are supporting them to undertake right-to-work checks with ease.

“After consulting with the sector extensively, we have been informed that the majority of employers will not be in a position to return fully to the office by 17 May. Therefore we have taken the decision to push back the date for physical document checks to resume from 21 June.”

The updated Home Office guidance has now been published.

Article originally published on 11 May, updated on 12 May 2021.

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