The way businesses onboard new employees is set to change on 1 October 2022. Covid-adjusted digital checks – right to work checks via video interview - will no longer be compliant. From this date all checks should be carried out face to face or using a government-certified digital solution.
Reed Screening's Director, Keith Rosser, has been instrumental in lobbying UK government on the implementation of digital right to work solutions for the last five years.
Reed Screening has hosted four parliamentary events, submitted three questions to Parliament, and written a briefing for 10 Downing Street to assist in modernising practice. We interviewed Keith to explain all you need to know about the important changes.
Q: Please can you give an overview of what has happened with ID verification checks and the upcoming changes coming on 1 October 2022?
A: It's been a real journey to get to this point. Prior to the pandemic all right to work checks for employers were done in person which was inefficient and unsafe (how many front-of-office staff can recognise a fake Italian ID card from a genuine Immigration Status Document?), and since 2020 the message from government has been to return to in-person checks.
The problem is, work has changed, businesses have changed. With the rise of hybrid working, more online job processes, and fewer physical offices - it simply would never have worked. For 18 months, I have helped the UK government to understand this issue by writing a briefing for Number 10, speaking at several parliamentary briefing sessions, and working with numerous politicians.
The outcome? From 1 October 2022, UK employers can work with a certified Identity Service Provider (an IDSP) which enables jobseekers to click a link and validate their identity remotely. This avoids the crisis that pre-pandemic, in-person checks would have brought, such as limiting job opportunities for people, while also improving the security of the Covid-adjusted checks launched in March 2020.
Q: What do employers need to know and do?
A: Employers can still use in-person checks alone, just as they did before the pandemic, but the majority want to use digital too. If so, employers need to set up a service with an IDSP.
Currently there are 10 certified IDSP companies, but many more going through the process, and as employers do not have to use certified companies, they can choose just about any IDSP. However, it’s advisable to select those going through the certification process or already certified.
There isn't long... with just three weeks to go and the IDSPs inundated with requests, the clock is ticking. That’s why Reed Screening has developed AssuredID, which has been built with the latest policy developments in mind, and is designed to help employers achieve the highest level of compliance with current and future legislative requirements.
Developed by experts in biometrics, identity documentation, and right to work legislation, AssuredID can be used as a pay as you go service and can also accommodate large volume requirements.
My message to businesses who have not yet selected an IDSP - and who need to recruit remotely - act today, because time is running out fast.
Q: What are your thoughts on the upcoming changes? Will it make it easier or harder for people to find work, and for employers to onboard effectively?
A: This change is massively important, as those looking for work can get employment anywhere in the UK and are no longer restricted by geography. It will maximise the talent available and will help UK business compete internationally.
Companies who had previously exhausted their local talent pools, can now cast their nets wider and recruit beyond their towns and cities. Employers can build entire digital hiring and onboarding strategies and move at a greater pace. There are some considerations when hiring a digital workforce remotely, such as building engagement and commitment, but these are good challenges to have rather than dealing with a lack of locally available workers.
Q: Are there any issues with the new scheme that employers need to watch out for?
A: Sadly, yes. It has moved so fast that issues were perhaps inevitable. The main issue is with inclusivity. Under the scheme, anyone without in-date visa status or an in-date British/Irish passport can only get work through the old face-to-face route.
So essentially, any British or Irish jobseeker without an in-date passport could easily be excluded from the process. While employers must not discriminate, in the real world of fast-paced hiring, a person who can use the digital route and start Monday may well beat those who need to wait until a convenient time to travel to the office - or public place like a coffee shop - with their birth certificate. And looking at past census data, the number of people without a passport or those with expired passports could be as high as one-in-five jobseekers.
The passport office delays don't help either, as people could find themselves with an application pending, which would prevent them getting the job they have applied for. For workers with valid visas, they must present their ‘share code’ electronically to employers, which has caused problems for workers in digital poverty.
Q: How have you influenced the changes since digital checks were introduced during Covid-19?
A: For over five years, I have sat on the Home Office Employers Cooperating with Home Office (ECHO) committee advising on the right to work policy. In 2018, Reed helped trial and test the new embedded online checking service used by all UK employers. And in 2019, I was fortunate enough to co-author the ‘Digital Right to Work Inquiry’ led by the All-Party Parliamentary Group and headed up by Dean Russell MP.
Then in 2020 when the pandemic struck, I worked with civil servants on the challenges that face-to-face right to work checks would pose as the first lockdown approached. This resulted in the launch of the Covid-adjusted checks, which will now end on 30 September 2022, and enabled employers to view right to work documents via video interview links. Originally this was designed to be in place for just a few months, but we all know what happened as lockdown far exceeded any expectations. This was always a temporary measure, and the Home Office was very clear that face-to-face checks would return as the only option.
In fact, across 2021 there were three deadlines that I worked with the Home Office to extend due to the nature of hiring having changed. This work included being asked to write a briefing for Number 10 as well arranging a number of parliamentary events. This work meant I was quoted alongside Ministers in the official Home Office press release earlier this year announcing digital right to work. More recently, on the inclusion agenda, I worked with a variety of peers to make a call for change, something that has been picked up by the Minister of State, Minister for Levelling Up, and several MPs whose constituents will be affected.
Q: How do these changes fit in with the modern, hybrid world of work?
A: Not only do these changes reflect the modern world of work, but they will eventually drive the new world of work. This is the catalyst for more digital change in hiring and onboarding. It will drive innovation in the way people look and apply for work. It is in keeping with our new-found hybrid working model and will enable this to develop more broadly in the future, changing people's relationship and attitudes to work. It will help drive the growth of the gig economy as people can more easily find secondary employment remotely, especially during the current cost-of-living crisis.
Q: What do you think the future of employment will look like amid these changes?
A: This is the beginning of even greater work flexibility. Workers will be able to take on multiple positions more easily as work becomes increasingly remote for lots of sectors. Traditional boundaries will be eroded, even seeing work become more migratory across national demarcations. For white collar roles, the digital nomad will become more common, and employers will begin competing for talent not just nationally, but internationally with countries needing to compete on attractiveness to incentivise workers to be based there.
Q: How do you think these changes will impact temporary work?
A: These changes will make temporary work even more flexible and virtual. Recruiters like Reed have developed digital hiring and onboarding methods during the pandemic and this change will further refine digital recruitment, improving the experience and opportunities for jobseekers while speeding up hiring for employers. Digital right to work will drive digital credentialing which is the digitisation of careers, qualifications, and suitability for roles making job searching, application, and success more intuitive, secure, and modern. All temporary workers recruited through Reed will have their ID verified through the AssuredID system.
Q: What are the risks if employers aren’t prepared?
A: The risks are significant. Failure to implement digital right to work by 30 September will mean employers can only recruit face to face or risk Home Office fines of £20,000 per applicant, and other sanctions such as the removal of visa sponsorship status, and even criminal action. Face-to-face checking for most sectors means slower, riskier hiring which could lead to already in-demand candidates taking up other positions or even immigration abuses where illegal workers target organisations unable to prevent it.
To find out more about the upcoming changes sign up to our free webinar with Keith, taking place on Wednesday 28 September 2022, at 1pm, or to find out more about AssuredID visit our dedicated website below.