Modernising right to work checks

This week’s blog looks back at another step forward taken this year in the form of a modernised right to work checking service.

Back in mid-December of last year, the Government presented to Parliament an updated code of practice to prevent illegal working (1). The amendments allow for ‘employers to be able to solely rely on an online check from 28th January 2019 for employees eligible for the scheme’ (1). A step forward given the previous requirement to supplement online checks with paper documents.

So who’s eligible for the online Right to Work Checking Service?

EEA nationals with Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme and non-EEA nationals who possess a biometric residence permit or cards. As for EEA nationals without settled status, they will still need to comply with current procedures – demonstrating their right to work through approved documents such as a passport (1).

Simplifying the system and managing migrants

The major benefit of the new online system is greater simplicity and security. Employers ‘no longer need to rely on physical documents when checking migrants’ status, further reducing the risk of forged documents being presented’ (2) – thereby making it easier to comply with the Immigration Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 and avoid significant penalties. The new system allows employers to access real-time information about migrants’ right to work’ (2).

How it works

Each worker using the system views their right to work record. They can then consent to their current or prospective employer viewing information about their immigration status to conduct the right to work check. This is done by the worker issuing the employer a ‘share code’ to access the record (3) – ensuring privacy and security. The new process comes with the added benefit of providing individuals with complete clarity on exactly what information is being shared and used for the checks (2).

How does this new process benefit UK nationals?

In addition to the reduced time taken to process the right to work check, the new service also allows individuals to demonstrate their citizenship with their short form birth or adoption certificate and National Insurance number – a particular plus for UK nationals without a passport, given that the short versions are free as opposed to their full counterparts (2).

For UK passport holders, it is worth noting that, as is the case with most passport related issues at the moment, EU passports will be accepted by the service until 31st December 2020 – if we have a transition until then! I’d advise employers using, or intending to use, the service to keep a close eye on this part to ensure due diligence.

Trusting in digital

The service is currently voluntary for both employers and individuals, but of course right to work checks must be completed either using the existing system or the online checking service (2). Immigration Minister Carolyn Noakes stated that the ‘voluntary’ nature of the new service is in place whilst workers, ‘migrants and employers develop familiarity with the process and take up becomes more prevalent’ (3).

Whilst figures and statistics regarding the uptake of the new service have not been published, I would hazard a guess that it’s not been significant as yet. My reasoning is simple; how many times have we been overpromised on technology to help our profession, and so quickly left disappointed? Now I’m not suggesting we go into some form of digital despair, but rather the latter – we embrace this, give it a fair go and feedback any challenges and encourage the government to keep up with continuous improvement.

The new system can be accessed here, and the code of practice found here.