The options for conducting right to work checks have been cut – so what are we left with and how may that impact HR? We’ll consider that.
This goes back to March 2020 and the early days of the pandemic. To help employers, the government put in place new measures to allow checks to be completed by a video call and for scans or photos of documents to be accepted rather than originals. That approach avoided the need to meet people face to face to check their right to work and it applied regardless of which checking scheme applied. It is that relaxation of the checking rules has now ended.
As Shara Pledger explains in her article for Out-Law: ‘Right to work check requirements stiffened in the UK’, we now have three distinct routes for completing right to work checks in the UK:
1 - In the case of non-British or non-Irish workers, employers are obliged to carry out remote checks via the Home Office online checking service: this system has been mandatory for employers since April 2022.
2 - For British or Irish workers that have their current passport or Irish ID card, employers have been able to use the Identification Document Validation Technology (IDVT) service since 6 April 2022. That service is delivered remotely through government-certified third-party identity service providers. The service is not mandatory for employers to use.
3 - In cases where British or Irish workers do not have a current passport or Irish ID card, or where they do but employers elect not to use the IDVT service for checks, the employer can conduct manual document checks themselves.
Since Shara wrote that piece, a few days later, we have had updated guidance from the Home Office on exactly how the checking system will operate, so let’s hear more about that. Alex Wright is an immigration specialist in Shara’s team and he joined me by video-link from Manchester to discuss the changes:
Alex Wright: “Well, the main benefit from the guidance is not a huge amount is changing. A lot of employers will be aware that during the pandemic, the Home Office allowed a number of adjustments to allow for Right to Work checks to be done remotely, where there are digital checks taking place. So if you're doing digital checks on your international workers, that's still the case, you can still run those digital checks and you can still verify the identification through remote means, so by Zoom by Teams, so that's going to be a real benefit to most employers.”
Joe Glavina: “In her article Shara talks about the logistical challenges for HR teams. What are those challenges?
Alex Wright: “So the main change after this concession has ended is that manual checks are back for people who are not entitled to digital ones. So, if you're employing somebody who does not have access to a document that allows a digital Right to Work check to be undertaken, you're going to have to bring them into the office for a face-to-face check and look at them alongside the copy of the document. There are some concessions. So, for example, if the person is unable to get to your office but wants to, for example, courier their ID documents to you for review, and then you view them remotely whilst checking their document and then send that passport back to them, that is absolutely fine, you can do a check on that basis. But then a firm never really needs to be thinking about, well, I'm taking hold of someone's personal property and private information, you don't want to be in a position where you're losing someone's passport as part of a Right to Work check. So, if that is something that a company is going to be doing, they probably want to put processes in place to make sure that they're storing those documents safely and returning them quickly.”
Joe Glavina: “Now, in many cases large employers are going to want to look to as a service provider to help them with carrying out checks. Where are we with that? Are there plenty to choose from? Is it expensive?”
Alex Wright: “So for international workers, employees can carry on doing the same digital checks through the Home Office as they've been doing for the best part of two years now. It's British and Irish workers where these new systems come in, the new IDVT System. There are a number of providers who are assisting with this right now, there's not that many, there’s a list, you can check it out. But to be honest, it's not particularly wide-ranging at the moment - we're expecting it to grow, but it's very much in its infancy. So, we're expecting that larger employers, for the meanwhile, may well need to revert to manual checks for British and Irish workers until this becomes more widely available.”
Joe Glavina: “Is there anything in this latest guidance that came as a surprise, Alex?”
Alex Wright: “The only thing that really surprised us in the guidance was this ability to post your documents in and then have a remote check. We thought it was going to have to be, you know, a manual check which would mean that you had to be in person alongside your document, but we now know that can mean that your documents can be with your employer, and you can be viewed remotely which will be of benefit to some people who find out logistically challenging.”
Joe Glavina: “Final question, Alex. Going back to those IDVT service providers. Is that an expensive route for employers to go down and does the cost vary depending on which one you choose?”
Alex Wright: “So, the cost of IDVT varies. The Home Office guidance ranges from a small amount of pounds to tens. So, realistically, this is something that it might be worth larger employees talking to service providers about, see what arrangements they come up with, and if they are going to be doing bulk purchasing of it, see if there are more favourable rates available. But at the moment, different providers are allowed to provide differently, there are a range of price options.”
That article by Shara Pledger looking at the new regime for right to work checks from 1 October is called ‘Right to work check requirements stiffened in the UK’. We have put a link to t in the transcript of this programme. We’ve also put a link to the latest Home Office guidance that Alex was referring to in that interview with me.
- Link to Home Office guidance on right to work checks (dated 27 September 2022)
- Link to Out-Law article: ‘Right to work check requirements stiffened in the UK’