Building back better "right to work" checks

Update 25th August – the Home Office has extended the “temporary right to work checks” until April 2022 while initiating “a review of specialist technology to support a system of digital right to work checks in the future” . It is essential for employers, as well as technology and service suppliers to help the Better Hiring Institute, in particular, make a success of that review.

The “temporary adjusted right to work checks”, introduced by Home Office in March 2020 have been one of the unexpected success stories of lockdown. They enabled a massive levelling up, with UK citizens living in depressed areas (including former red wall constituencies) able to apply for remote-working jobs on equal terms with overseas applicants at the same time as improving security (as a result of the adoption of widespread centralised on-line checking in place of the tick box registration of readily faked physical documents)

Home Office has announced a study into making the changes permanent but, in the mean-time, it is due to end on September 1st, thus bringing an abrupt end to the current surge in recruitment efforts and derailing economic recovery at the same time as re-opening opportunities for fraud.

It is unclear how much of that surge was to bring forward employment checks on potential candidates in order to beat the deadline, but the subsequent crash, during the run up to the party conference season, is likely to cause considerable political embarrassment, as well as delaying recovery and costing jobs and tax revenues.

There is barely a week left to cement the improvements made over the past year and turn potential disaster into triumph by adopting the recommendations of the Better Hiring Institute for a smooth transition into a world of faster, more efficient and more secure checks, helping to overcome labour shortages by levelling up recruitment within the UK rather than exporting jobs.

Detail of the BHI recommendations can be found in their briefing to MPs and back up document but can be summarised as:

Home Office should:

  • extend the temporary adjusted checks whilst it conducts the announced long-term review of the use of digital technology in right to work checking for British and Irish nationals.
  • enhance the temporary adjusted checks in line with GPG45 including remote checks that:
  • a passport is valid, visible and cryptographic security features are genuine and an extension of the on-line validation service (closed to new applicants).
  • a driving licence is valid and visible security features are genuine. This would demonstrate proof of right for British and Irish nationals.
  • Remote checks of birth against online databases using the GRO Index. In the event of changes of name, the marriage certificate, decree absolute or deed poll, as now.
  • Support a pilot to agree the conditions under which already available digital identity checking technologies, products and serves should be used.

Background

The Better Hiring Institute (BHI) hosted an employer roundtable on 12 August 2021. The 50 participating employers (including  Aviva, Concentrix, Hays, KPMG, Nestle, Reed, Royal Mail, Sky Betting, TSB, University of West London, and Webhelp) provided evidence that ID can already be validated digitally more safely and securely than conducting physical checks.

This enabled the hiring of over 40,000 workers, many from employment blackspots, who would not previously have been considered because of the need to travel long distances for physical interviews and document checking.

Overall employment rates in blackspot areas held level or even increased during the pandemic because employers were able to recruit remotely and from areas within the UK that previously were unavailable to them. This will cease should the UK move back solely to physical right to work checks as organisations will be limited to where physical offices are located.

Meanwhile the Office for National Statistics reports the vacancies up almost 10% on pre-pandemic levels in January 2020.  The UK has fewer available workers and the worst labour shortage since 1997. An estimated 1.3m non-UK workers have left during the pandemic and fewer EU workers are arriving into the UK.

Action to prevent economic recovery being delayed by a return to insecure physical document checking is urgent. The BHI recommendations offer an immediate way forward that does not require legislation.  

P.S. Over the past year The Better Hiring Institute has made serious progress in bringing together, on one website, links to authoritative guidance and resources to help employers check the qualifications and certifications of applicants, including for regulated sectors such as financial services, health and education. Some of its sector working groups have also begun work on “digital skills passports” for regulated sectors.

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