The Home Office needs to address the flaws in its Right to Work (RTW) screenings, according to the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo).

APSCo, which represents in the interests of recruitment firms, says it welcomes the Home Office’s plans to introduce permanent digital RTW screenings using an official service provider, but is concerned about the implications.

For example, APSCo says, the government has not clarified what the service will cost or if fees are standardised or capped to prevent burdening small businesses.

Clarification needed

It also says in the new plans, there is potential for the ‘unnecessary duplication of checks’ and very imited time frames in which to select a preferred supplier.

At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the government started to allow firms to conduct digital RTW checks because people had to work from home. This worked really well, and firms appreciated the ease and smoothness of the system in onboarding new workers, so campaigned for the move to be permanent, which the Home Office agreed to, but suggested that certified companies would have to carry out the checks, with a cost attached.

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, (REC) said: “We remain concerned by the potential costs of the system, however. With recruiters placing a million temporary workers into roles every day, a system that charges pounds per check will be unsustainable for smaller firms. Every week, hundreds of thousands of checks are undertaken – at that scale, it should be easy to make the process low-cost. This will be a key priority for the REC in the months to come.”

Cost, delays and duplications

The Global Public Policy Director at APSCo, Tania Bowers, said her organisation had also long called for digital RTW checks, but said after a “drill down into the details”, it is clear there is potential the checks could actually hinder recruitment firms. 

She added: “While there will understandably be costs associated with digital checks, we are concerned that SME staffing firms will be exposed to high fees given that the decision around certified provider usages is often driven by the end-user’s outsourcing provider. This is an additional cost of supply, leading to higher costs for end-users or lower rates for workers, disincentivising the best talent to apply for positions.”

APSCo has called on the Home Office to introduce either low standard rates or caps on fees to prevent certified providers from being able to charge whatever they wanted, creating new and unnecessary costs to recruitment firms.  

Ms Bowers pointed to the fact the need for certification could also mean delays in onboarding, as a third party would be in charge of the checks. This, she said, was a crucial point at a time when ‘skills were in short supply.’

She said: “We have written to the Minister for Justice and Tackling Illegal Migration, calling on the Home Office to address these issues raised and to temporarily extend the Covid-19 RTW check, providing an overlap with the digitalised process, to allow time for businesses to set up their arrangements with certified providers.”