As you may have seen in the news employers have been given more time to prepare for digital right-to-work checks in a helpful development for employers. The Home Office has announced that the scrapping of temporary adjusted checks for employers to establish a candidate’s right to work in the UK has been deferred again, a further 6 months down the line, to 30 September.
Personnel Today gives the background to this. So during the pandemic, as a temporary measure, employers have been able to carry out video-based checks of a person’s right to work in the UK, rather than having to physically examine documents. After numerous extensions to the end date the government announced in December that from 6 April 2022 employers will be able to use government-certified ‘identification document validation technology’ (IDVT) to check UK and Irish citizens’ right to work.
The Home Office says the extension of adjusted checks is a pragmatic measure that recognises the logistical difficulties employers would face if they had to return to manually checking original documents at the same time as IDVT is launched. In a statement they said: ‘Deferring the end date of the adjusted checks to 30 September 2022 ensures employers have sufficient time to develop commercial relationships with identity service providers, make the necessary changes to their pre-employment checking processes and carry out responsible on-boarding of their chosen provider.’
So let’s get reaction to these announcements. Shara Pledger is an immigration specialist who joined me by video-link and I asked Shara for her assessment of the latest news from the Home Office:
Shara Pledger: “We’ve had several announcements from the Home Office over the last couple of weeks, some of which remain very much valid. So we have big changes coming at the beginning of April, so taking effect from 6 April 2022, which will fundamentally change how businesses check whether their migrant workers have the right to work. So the real big change that we're seeing, and this is absolutely being implemented, is that from 6 April it will no longer be acceptable to accept a biometric residence document as proof of somebody's right to work and that's a huge change, that’s exactly what people have been doing up to this point. What we're doing now is we're moving away from this reliance on physical documents, so the idea that an employer will actually take the document from their worker, look at it, take copies of both sides, etcetera, moving away from that and over on to a digital checking process which, in theory, is going to be much better for employers, makes it much more straightforward for them to see exactly what type of permission that person has, any conditions that are on their right to work, when it will expire etcetera and it also, crucially, takes away the onus on an employer to check whether a document is a genuine document or not. So it's a real improvement. Now, what has caused some complication is that at the same time the Home Office was supposed to be removing this adjusted checking process that we already had. So they called them COVID-19 Adjusted Checks and they are still looking at the manual checking process, the idea of taking the document and copying it, but also the digital checking process that we have and they have sort of put a barrier in the middle of it. So they remove the employer and the employee from being in the same room as each other, they conduct over a video call for example, and that was all scheduled to end on 6 April so everything that was changing would all happen on the same date, but no longer. So those COVID-19 Adjusted Checks are now going to stay enforced until 30 of September of this year, so changes for those from the first of October 2022, and the reason for that is because of another change that is taking effect in April. So, also on 6 April, we have the introduction, for the first time, of digital checks for British and Irish workers and that will be via a separate digital system. Now the only snag with that one is that the Home Office, unfortunately, haven't been able to get everything in place in the way that they would quite like it to be at this stage, as we're supposed to be going live in only a few weeks, so to give a little bit of an overlap, if you like, as that system starts to take effect, those COVID-19 Adjusted Checks are going to stay in force now for a little bit longer than was anticipated. But again, ultimately, this is probably quite good for employers, it just gives them an extra option in terms of moving forward, it gives more time to get used to this idea of the digital checks for British and Irish nationals and it gives time for them to make a connection and probably sign a contract with one of the approved providers for those new digital checks. So lots happening, but unfortunately now a little bit confusing with all of the deadlines.”
Joe Glavina: “There have been a lot of announcements coming from the Home Office in recent weeks and, as you say, it has been quite confusing. So is there anything else that employers might have missed?”
Shara Pledger: “Yes, definitely. The other thing to be aware of is that, as is always the case, anything that changes right to work checks has a huge potential to have an impact on discrimination because, obviously, for the vast majority of the time when you're looking at somebody's right to work it's because that person isn't a British national. Now, to combat this the Home Office have released two new codes of practice and they will both take effect from 6 April. So one is the Code of Practice for Employers against Preventing Illegal Working. The other one is a Code of Practice for Employers on Preventing Discrimination. So employers should absolutely make sure they're familiar with both of those new codes that will come into force from April, make sure their staff are familiar with those two new codes, and then just pick it up from there. There aren't huge changes that are coming into a lot of it, particularly in relation to the preventing discrimination point, however it tends to be the minor changes that catch people up. Huge things like biometric permits no longer being acceptable, very easy to remember, it’s those little minor things, those slight tweaks to the process, that are the ones that have a tendency to catch people out. So just caution really for employers in that respect.”
The Home Office has produced updated guidance for employers on conducting right to work checks. We have put a link to it in the transcript of this programme.