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Right to Work Changes: A Backwards Step

Updated: Sep 27, 2021

Outline of Changes

A major announcement on Right to Work Checks was announced last week. As a response to the pandemic, the government relaxed the rules on what evidence could be accepted and the need for face-to-face contact. Scans of documents became acceptable, and video calls replaced meeting in person, making the process of completing a Right to Work a more remote one than it had ever been before.

However, it was announced last week that from May 17th, the rules will revert back to how they were before the pandemic – only original pieces of documentation will be accepted, and there will almost certainly be a need for face-to-face meetings.

A Backwards Step

The movement away from the remote process that is currently in place will have a massive impact on many businesses in many different sectors. The most obvious point is that businesses have done so much to adapt to remote processes, it seems counterproductive to ask them to make a complete U-Turn in how they complete their Right to Work checks at a time where money and resources are so tight.

It also seems a backwards step in the respect that conducting checks remotely streamlines and makes the process more efficient, with scans proving simple to verify and saving valuable time by cutting out unnecessary face-to-face meetings, as well as waiting times for original copies of documents to arrive. The technology is in place and we know it works – let’s keep using it.

Waiting for original documents is also more complicated than it was before due to the continuing uncertainties and ambiguities caused by Brexit. With potentially more hoops to jump through than before for many, it seems the government is getting caught behind by not keeping as much of the process as possible remote.

The Home Office Right to Work online service is offering a service to fast-track certain Right to Work applications, and is worth checking out, but this is limited to certain Visas and status types (it does not include UK nationals, for example), and will not help many candidates and business complete their Right to Work Checks any faster.

The Future

The one overriding positive that has come out of these temporary changes is that businesses have seen the benefits of conducting their pre-employment compliance checks remotely. While the Right to Work checking process has been excluded from this trend for the time being, it is quite possible that businesses will keep doing a lot of their pre-employment compliance and onboarding checks remotely even when we are living our normal lives again.

UPDATE: May 11th Announcement

There was a positive announcement from the Home Office on May 11th, who, thanks to pressure from businesses, have delayed the re-instatement of physical Right to Work checks from May 17th to June 21st. With the U.K. not yet out of lockdown, continuing with remote Right to Work checks for an extra month is the common sense decision.

There are, however, serious questions that still need to be addressed. The most obvious of these is that, as it stands, Right to Work checks will revert back to requiring physical documentation from June 21st, so is it really a big win for businesses, or just delaying the inevitable? The other major issue is the increased difficulty of hiring non-UK nationals that will arise after this new deadline passes. Post-Brexit hiring of non-UK nationals was going to be more complicated than before, but having to wait for physical documents to arrive seems like a needless and avoidable delay when businesses are desperately trying to get back on their feet.

The fact the Home Office has extended the period of remote Right to Work Checks suggests that it is both willing to listen to the concerns of businesses, and satisfied with the remote system that has been in place for a while now. With this in mind, let's hope that this extension is the first stage in enabling a fully remote Right to Work Checking system.

Photo by Ethan Wilkinson on Unsplash


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