Recruitment firms are urging the new immigration minister to reform the digital right to work check system, saying the new regime is causing massive disruption and inefficiency for businesses.
They say the disparity between how UK and Irish nationals are treated compared to overseas staff, together with confusion about whether expired passports are an acceptable form of identification, is making challenges around staff shortages worse.
The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) has written to immigration minister Robert Jenrick expressing serious concerns over the digital right to work check system. The new digital RTW checking system was introduced earlier this year but became mandatory for remote checks on 1 October 2022, when Covid-adjusted checks – where candidates’ documents could be checked over a video call – were no longer an acceptable way to check a person’s right to work in the UK.
Among the suggestions the REC is putting forward on behalf of its members are a cap on pricing for digital right to work checks, allowing expired passports to be used as ID, and requiring accreditation for ID service providers to establish consistency. Currently an IDSP does not need to be certified, although most are.
Right to work checks
The REC campaigned for the introduction of a permanent digital RTW system, both before the pandemic and following the government’s introduction of adjusted digital RTW checks at the height of Covid-19.
The Home Office repeatedly planned to revert back to an in-person check as lockdown ended, but many including the REC argued this would have been a step backward for our economy.
A proper digital system reduces travel time and cost for workers, and enables recruitment agencies to get people into work more quickly, especially in rural areas. But a digital system needs to be user-friendly and fair to UK citizens – there is already an effective system for those from outside the UK and Ireland.
Neil Carberry, chief executive at the REC, said: “Introducing the digital right to work was a hugely positive step, but costs are currently too high, and the system treats different workers unfairly, as well as exposing firms to risk.
“By addressing the barriers we have identified, the Home Office can help to speed up the process of getting people into work. Anything that can be done to make the recruitment process more efficient and safer will go a long way to addressing the labour shortages we are experiencing.
“As the new ministerial team find their feet, we’re ready to work with government on making the UK jobs market the competitive engine for growth we know it is.”
Smaller recruitment and staffing firms have reported issues with the new system and the use of Identity Document Verification Technology (IDVT), and the REC is urging the government to make changes.
In its letter the REC outlines three specific issues with the current digital right to work service:
1. The new RTW system creates disparity between UK/Irish nationals and overseas candidates, with only the latter able to use the existing free online right-to-work checking service to get a right to work share code
2. There is confusion and inconsistency over Home Office advice on using expired passports as an acceptable form of ID for RTW checks. Given the backlog at the Passport Office, the REC says this is adding significant delays as candidates don’t always have a current passport, and many workers cannot afford to get one just for RTW purposes
3. Lastly, the REC has concerns over the cost and consistency of service being offered by firms providing digital RTW services. As there is no legal requirement for a provider to be certified, it has the potential to leave businesses, particularly SMEs, vulnerable to unscrupulous providers who do not carry out the appropriate checks to prove right to work.
The Home Office has been contacted for comment.