Recruitment chief blasts new digital right to work checks

The chief exec of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation says the new system creates a disparity between UK national and overseas jobseekers, and raises concerns about “the quality and consistency” of current digital technology providers

Posted 28 November 2022 by Christine Horton

The chief executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), Neil Carberry, has warned UK immigration minister Robert Jenrick of issues with new digital right to work (RTW) checks.

In an open letter to Jenrick, Carberry raised concerns cover domestic worker charges for document checking, use of expired passports and standards and certification for identity service providers (IDSPs).

While describing the implementation of digital RTW checks as “a much-needed step in the right direction,” Carberry said the REC members have highlighted a number of shortcomings with the new Identity Document Verification Technology (IDVT) system since its introduction in April.

Prior to the introduction of IDVT, he said the REC raised concerns that the new system creates a disparity between UK national and overseas jobseekers. Specifically, overseas candidates can use the free online checking service to verify their RTW, using a share code. UK nationals either have to use the new IDVT system, which incurs “a non-trivial fee” for each and every check or use the manual in-person checking system.

“This takes much longer and disadvantages workers who have to pay – either for the check or for travel and time off work to do the check. Ultimately, it means it is taking longer to get UK candidates into work,” wrote Carberry.

He said the REC wants to see parity in the checking service available to UK and international candidates.

“This should start with Government working with the REC and others to reduce the costs of these checks. They are routine checks of status – with a million temporary workers in work every day, economies of scale should mean that they can be done for a few pence per check, not several pounds.”

Carberry went on to ask the Home Office to improve competition in the space, and to consider other ways of simplifying and reducing the cost of the system to both employers and workers.

Passport verification hurting job seekers and businesses

The chief exec also said there was disparity in the use of expired passports as a valid document for UK citizens.

“An expired passport has always been accepted as valid proof of the right to work of a UK citizen for manual RTW checks, yet it cannot be used for digital ones,” he wrote. “Home Office guidance states, rightly, that an expired passport is still acceptable for the manual check, so excluding this from digital checks creates inconsistency. Recruiters are finding it also acts as a barrier to work-seekers in some communities and amongst lower paid people, who cannot afford and don’t need a new passport.

“Even where the cost is not an issue, the backlog in issuing new passports is causing some to experience delays of several months. Given labour shortages in the UK, this additional delay is hurting businesses that need staff urgently. Allowing IDVT providers to accept expired passports through their platforms would help to address this issue.”

Concerns over “the quality and consistency” of providers

Carberry also said the REC had concerns over “the quality and consistency” of some current digital technology providers.

“As the Home Office has not prescribed a mechanism for digital RTW, different providers are using different technologies and systems to conduct checks. This can cause confusion for employers who are trying to differentiate between providers and the services they offer,” he maintained.

“Additionally, there is no legal requirement for a provider to be certified, regardless of the Home Office having a list of certified providers. This leaves businesses, particularly SMEs, vulnerable to unscrupulous and uncertified providers offering non-compliant RTW checks.”

Carberry said that requiring all providers to be accredited by the Home Office and working to reduce the cost of certified checks would help to address these concerns, and ensure recruiters know that all providers are meeting a certain standard.

There is also a question of where liability sits in the event of a failure, he added.

“Where an unaccredited IDVT provider verifies a work seeker’s right to work in a way that is not sufficient to fulfil the employer’s statutory excuse, it is still the recruiter that would be liable for Home Office fines of £20,000 per illegal worker. Introducing a level of liability for the company performing the check would help to alleviate these concerns, particularly where it is their error that has led to illegal working.”