The Home Office has announced that the return to physical Right to Work checks has been delayed until the 1st of September.
Prior to the announcement of further delays of the full lifting of lockdown restrictions, the Home Office previously stated that physical Right to Work checks would be reinstated today (21st June 2021).
However, this has now been pushed back to the 1st September so “employers have sufficient time to put measures in place to enable face to face document checks”.
When asked why this return to physical checks had been delayed, the Home Office stated that many employers reported that they would not be in a position to return to the office until September.
From this new deadline, employers will need to be in possession of the original documents when carrying out a document check. It further warned that accepting a scanned copy or a photo of original documents will not provide companies with a defence against a civil penalty.
However, online Right to Work checks will still be accessible for candidates with a Biometric Residence Permit or Card, status under the EU Settlement Scheme, or the points-based immigration system.
This has previously been criticised by Tania Bowers, Legal Counsel and Head of Public Policy at APSCo, who said this system “disproportionately disadvantages UK workers”.
The Home Office have now specified that employers cannot insist individuals use the online service or discriminate against those who choose to use their documents to prove their right to work.
The REC previously estimated that, without allowing Right to Work (RTW) checks to continue to be conducted digitally, over 300,000 people a week could be delayed in starting work.
Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the REC, responded to this delay in returning to Physical Right to Work checks:
This is a sensible decision that will keep the jobs market moving. We’re pleased government has listened, and we look forward to working with the Home Office on the next logical step – a permanent digital system.
Further, Tania Bowers, Legal Counsel and Head of Public Policy at APSCo, shared similar views:
The introduction of digital Right to Work checks during the Coronavirus Pandemic has been an essential lifeline for companies, employers and job seekers. It enabled the UK labour market to maintain its agility during a time when so much of the economy was required to work remotely from home, or frozen entirely under lockdown conditions.
While this extension will provide some much-needed relief for employers across the UK, APSCo still maintains that the success of the digital Right to Work checks over the last year should not be ignored. There has been a huge amount of time and effort that has gone into adapting the Right to Work verification processes in a remote environment and to return to pre-pandemic systems that do not retain the flexibility that is needed in a hybrid working environment will not help organisations during this recovery period.
Ms. Bowers further reiterated the idea that reverting back to physical Right to Work checks could disadvantage UK workers:
We also remain concerned that a change to in-person checks at any point means that UK nationals will be treated differently from non-UK nationals. Proof of Right to Work checks for non-UK nationals are carried out digitally via UK Visas & Immigration, whereas UK national checks are required to be conducted in person.
We believe that everyone should be treated equally, and encourage a level-playing field between the foreign and domestic workforces, and we have asked the Home Secretary to take swift action on this matter.