Right-to-work checks postponed: what will this mean for recruiters?

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Lauren Wallace-Thompson
28 Sep 2021 @ 02:09 pm
in category: Partner News

Right-to-work checks are a part of a recruiter’s legal obligations when vetting new hires, but how have coronavirus regulations changed the process? And as we adjust to the new normal, will the requirements of the checks change? In this article, we take a look at the most recent changes to the guidance around right-to-work checks and what this means for recruiters. 

This article is for information purposes only and should not be seen as advice.  

How did the “right-to-work” checks change?  

During the coronavirus pandemic, the government made some changes to how “right-to-work” checks were carried out. If you don’t complete the proper right-to-work checks, or if you don’t do them properly, you could be fined up to £20,000 per worker, so this is crucial stuff to get right and to stay aware of any updates to the legislation. Equally, recruiters will always be looking for the best and simplest ways of doing things - for the contractor or worker, and everyone else. 

Previously, hirers had to manually see and copy originals of documents and meet the prospective employee in person to verify their photographs for the checks, which are part of the UK’s immigration legislation. The changes set up for the pandemic allowed hirers to cross-check documents using a combination of scanned/photographed digital copy and a video call where the candidate displays their original documents to the camera. If a worker does not have the required documentation, recruiters can use the Employer Checking Service. To do this you will need the candidate’s permission and some key personal information. 

The rules for right-to-work checks were due to revert to normal this month, but this has now been pushed back until 5 April 2022, meaning that recruiters can continue to use their remote checking systems at least until this date. Read on for our answers to the top FAQs that recruiters have about the extension of temporary adjusted right-to-work checks. 

What does this mean for recruiters? 

This is good news if your recruitment team are still largely working from home; if you are trying to offer more flexible working patterns to your employees; or if you have plans, as many companies have decided post-COVID, to move solely to remote- and digital working. The extension now means that document checks via video call are acceptable right up until the end of this tax year - 5th April 2022. What we don’t yet know is what the provision will be (if any) for making digital checks permanent, or whether the re-instigation of physical checks will be delayed further - this may well depend on what happens this winter in terms of the COVID crisis. The Home Office has previously indicated its ambition to digitise all immigration processes, and the government website promises that they are using the time during the extension of the contingency processes “to implement a long-term, post-pandemic solution”. For those looking for extra flexibility for all parties in the hiring chain, this would certainly be good news. 

What if I want to return to physical checks earlier? 

If your team is already back in the office and keen to return to familiar and tried-and-tested systems (and are perhaps just a little bit fed up with Zoom), you may want to reintroduce face-to-face right-to-work checks sooner. As far as the legislation goes, that’s completely fine. 

Candidates who are shielding or who cannot be vaccinated for any reason may be more cautious about coming in, and the extension gives you the flexibility to offer an online check if needed. It could also be handy for filling vacancies with candidates currently living overseas or for appointments where the client and contractor are some distance apart geographically (again, this is something we are seeing much more of since the pandemic, where clients and recruiters alike are widening their hiring net as remote working becomes more established). 

Will we have to physically check documents that we’ve previously seen online only? 

The government has indicated that it won’t be necessary for hirers to retrospectively check documents that have been seen through the online process. It’s also worth remembering that there is no legal obligation to undertake a right-to-work check if you’re engaging a genuinely self-employed contractor, though many companies choose to vet everyone because of the reputational risk factor and the potential for IR35 status challenges which would reclassify them as a worker. 

Is there anything else to remember? 

Right-to-work checks involve immigration data and sensitive confidential documents which can be extremely valuable to unscrupulous cybercriminals. Make sure your GDPR procedures are rigorous and followed carefully by all staff members, and that you’re taking your cyber security very seriously indeed. In fact, we think that this September is the perfect time to review your onboarding practices, with lots of companies returning to the office or establishing their new, post-pandemic ways of working.  

Once you’ve got the right to work checks completed and are looking to help your contractor settle into their new assignment, that’s a good time to talk to them about contractor insurance. Kingsbridge can help with essential cover like professional indemnity and public liability, as well as industry-leading add-ons like our IR35 Protect which flexes to cover everyone in the contractor supply chain. Our partners can also benefit from our rewards scheme and you could earn commission every time one of your referrals takes out a policy with us. For more information, have a look at our website or give our dedicated team a call


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