The Home Office wants employers to provide training and guidance to their staff on using the new permanent system for digital right to work checks. That is the clear message in their latest employer guidance which has just been published.
The digital regime, IDV, was initially a temporary measure to help employers place workers in roles quickly and easily, at a time when so many were working remotely. The Home Office is now making the change permanent with effect from 6 April, allowing employers to verify candidates’ eligibility to work, via a third party, without having to check physical documents.
Personnel Today and The HR Director report on this, carrying the headline message about the need for staff training. The key point is that the changes to the regulations from April means it will be a legal requirement for employers, and IDSPs - certified identity service providers - to discharge their duties in accordance with Home Office’s criteria, and in accordance with existing wider ‘right to work’ legislation and guidance. In other words, staff need to get it right or they risk breaching the regulations.
So let’s get a view on that. Shara Pledger is an immigration specialist who joined me by video-link from Manchester to discuss it:
Shara Pledger: “Well, 6 April will see several changes to do with right to work checks. The biggest, and probably the one that will have the most immediate impact for employers, will be the ending of COVID-19 adjusted checks. So what these did was allowed an employer to have a bit of a barrier between them and the individual whose identity they were checking. Normally, you would meet that person face to face and take a copy of their documents or compare the Home Office record with that person's image but what COVID-19 checks allows you to do was obviously do that remotely because you weren't supposed to be meeting people face to face. So that will come to an end. There has been a bit of to-ing and fro-ing with the Home Office about exactly when those would end and certainly, previously, dates were announced that were then pushed back. We don't expect this one to be pushed back again and we are fairly competent with that because what 6 April will also see is a bigger push towards digital checks for people, so trying to widen out the number of migrants that purely digital checks can be conducted for, and then also an introduction of a potentially totally new system called IDV, Identification Verification Checks, and those will initially only be for British and Irish people but it will give an employer an opportunity rather than having to sort of take a copy of somebody's document and make sure that it's a valid and a genuine document, etcetera, they can actually upload those copies to the Home Office and have them checked, have them verified, as being appropriate evidence, so in a way, offering a little bit more security to an employer in terms of whether or not their check has been appropriate.”
Joe Glavina: “I see the Home Office guidance is suggesting that employers should provide training and guidance to staff involved in conducting checks, but I gather there’s scope for outsourcing the verification procedures. Is that right?”
Shara Pledger: “Well, it much depends on how the Home Office decides to introduce this IDV process. So there is little information that's available about this right now. We know little snippets, like for example, it may well be a charged service rather than being able to do that for free and so there is, in theory, the possibility that you might then have service providers who are going to be offering that service, obviously with approval from the Home Office. So in theory there will be the potential that you'll have employers being able to say, you know, if you go to X Office or to the Post Office, or whatever it happens to be, then they might be able to run the verification checks for you there but at the moment that is guesswork and we really do need to wait and see exactly what's announced about that. The point about guidance I think probably is valid but whenever the guidance changes it's always a good idea to make sure that the staff who are responsible for right to work checks are kept up to date. So because we have got this move away from the COVID-19 adjusted checks, and this move towards the increased use of pure digital checks which is when a migrant is able to say to their employer, I have status from the Home Office, here is my Home Office code, and the employer will then use that code directly with the Home Office service to confirm information about that individual, that really is going to be the way forward for running checks for the vast majority, if not all, migrants in future and April of this year really sees a concerted push towards that, and it's always good and worthwhile to make sure that all personnel who are affected are well trained in terms of how that process operates and who it's for.”
Joe Glavina: “So, finally Shara, what would you say to anyone with responsibility for carrying out checks right now?”
Shara Pledger: “Certainly have a look at their most recent version of guidance, it was only published just towards the end of January, and it’s always worthwhile having a look through that and just making sure that there's nothing there that's going to catch people unawares as those changes come into force. There are some things where employees do you need to be careful. So for example, we receive a lot of questions nowadays, naturally, about what we do about our new workforce and just making sure that people are aware that you don't need to do things like retrospective checks. So it's not necessarily always about learning what to do that's new or learning what to do that's different, it’s about making sure that everybody's comfortable about the things that in fact don't need to be done both so they don't increase their workload unnecessarily, but also so you don't then start to run into things like employment claims for discrimination, those kinds of things as well. So really, bottom line, just make sure that people stay up to date with guidance and that the message is passed through to all relevant staff.”
The Home Office guidance Shara was referring to was published on 17 January and is called: ‘Employer right to work checks supporting guidance’. We have put a link to it in the transcript of this programme.
- Link to Home Office paper: ‘Employer right to work checks supporting guidance’