Right to work checks have been left too late, according to employment trade body

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The Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) has written to home secretary Priti Patel to highlight major concerns about the date set for the start of physical Right to Work checks.

Patel said physical Right to Work checks will return this month on 17 May however the APSCo have argued it has been left too late.

Tania Bowers, APSCo’s legal counsel and head of public policy said: “The short deadline for the return to in person checks is a real concern given that we are expecting the government ‘work from home if you can’ advice to remain in place into June.

“Introducing face to face checks when people are still working remotely is simply unworkable.”

Speaking to HR magazine, Kate Palmer, HR director at consultancy firm Peninsula, said the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on how Right to Work checks have been carried out.

She said: “With the government looking to press ahead with greater returns to normality in the coming weeks, it perhaps is not surprising that they have outlined plans to scrap digital right to work checks that were only supposed to be temporary during the pandemic.

“That said, the APSCo’s letter highlights several issues with current plans, particularly how this could clash with the guidance to work from home.”

Palmer said it remains to be seen how the government will respond to this, especially as a new Right to Work check procedure is expected to go live from 1 July 2021.

She said: “It may be that this decision has been made with the as-yet unannounced new rules in mind.

“Nevertheless, it may well be likely that the government do need to re-assess their position on this, and employers should keep up to date with the developments.”

The APSCo has also disputed the decision to dispense with the Covid remote video checks that they said have worked well over the last year.

“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,” said Bowers.

The employment trade body argued there are six major reasons not to end remote Right to Work checks, even after all COVID restrictions are lifted.

  1. A return to physical checks would seriously hamper a modern, agile labour market by enforcing location-based hiring.
  2. Face to face checks mandates travel in order to provide physical documents at a time when the guidance is still to work from home if you can – or it mandates posting of sensitive documents heightening the risk of identity fraud.
  3. 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 which disproportionately disadvantages UK workers
  4. Face to face screening creates a big barrier for business who are not yet (who may have never) worked in the old ways of full physical locations
  5. Scrapping remote screening could stop a rise in employment by limiting choice and access.
  6. Physical checking does not mean safer. People are not as good as technology is at spotting fraudulent documents