Remote ‘COVID-19’ Right to Work checks – here to stay?

October 26, 2021
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In recent months there has been a lot of discussion (and lobbying) about the prospect of ‘temporary COVID-19 adjusted Right to Work checks’ becoming a permanent feature – beyond 5th April 2022 when they are scheduled to end.
As with everything there are pro’s and con’s and whilst applauding any Government policy developments that make it easier for business to be compliant and streamline recruitment, there is a cautionary note.

Outside of government legislation/compliance, clearly all businesses recognise the value of background screening and will typically have a matrix approach to the nature of screening for various roles. Right to Work checks have always been the bedrock of this screening matrix, given the legal requirement to conduct on ALL new recruits prior to employment. However, they also provide a mechanism to support ID checks on candidates – with many the documents inspected during a Right to Work check also addressing this need.

The unfortunate reality is that ID fraud is as much of real and present risk in recruitment as it is in every other aspect of life today, with several credible indicators that fake ID has surged in the wake of the pandemic. In recruitment, this risk is clearly heightened if validation of a candidate’s ID documentation is limited to a brief glance at an individual’s passport via a Zoom call. That is not to say that a brief glance at a physical document necessarily creates any higher level of protection – in either case it is advisable that a set of parameters and process are in place for recruiters when checking candidate ID documents and undertaking Right to Work checks.

The pandemic has clearly impacted many business processes – in some cases creating lasting change – recruitment is not immune and ‘remote-recruitment’ has now become a buzz word. But what does this mean in practical terms for Right to Work checks?

The reality is that for many roles there will at some point in the recruitment, or on-boarding process, be a need to meet the new employee face to face – prior to the start of their first shift. This is the time when we would advocate it is sensible to conduct a Right to Work check in the ‘normal’ way – with Rightcheck this can be carried out swiftly, providing the assurance that the correct documents have actually been inspected and validated. This approach has two clear benefits – risk reduction and compliance, both GDPR and Right to Work legislation.

There may be circumstances where is it preferable to ‘pre-check’ candidates at an early stage in the recruitment process; avoiding a situation downstream in a costly hiring process of discovering a candidate has inadequate, or dubious credentials. We totally understand this (and indeed have something exciting in the pipeline to assist!). However, we again strongly advise that any cursory/video link check is supplemented by a proper check at a latter point – prior to the employment commencing.

There will be sectors of the recruitment industry, typified by the temp/agency providers, where circumstances pre/post COVID have not changed. In these sectors, remote recruitment has always been the ‘norm’ with only limited circumstances where there is a requirement to meet the candidate ‘face to face’ prior to work placement. Consequently, temporary COVID-19 Right to Work measures with regards to Right to Work have in a way legitimised existing practices, making it highly desirable for them to become permanent.

The panacea of all citizens having a ‘digital ID’ may not be a pipe-dream, however it is some time away and in reality the physical inspection of documents passports, visa’s, biometric residence permits etc. will be a way of checking ID and Right to Work status for quite a few years yet! Furthermore, those individuals who are equipped with an ‘online share-code’ do still need to be validated in several ways – for example is the person in front of you actually the person you are viewing on-screen?

Technology can assist with these challenges. It has advanced at pace in recent years, to the point where your mobile phone can facilitate a high level of ID documentation verification within seconds. Equipped with the Rightcheck app, a recruiter is guided through a consistent series of steps to rapidly check the authenticity of an ID document. This process includes reading the machine readable code and unlocking the biometric data embedded within the document, complimented by facial recognition/matching technologies.

In summary, we would urge businesses to be cautious about ‘COVID-adjusted’ Right to Work checks becoming the ‘norm’. Review recruitment/on-boarding processes and consider just how vital/valuable it is to be able to check candidate’s ID remotely? For some industries the answer will be yes it is vital, for others operationally it may not be vital. Be aware of the risks and limitations of recruiters checking ID documentation remotely, without the aid of assistive technologies. There are significant ramifications for any business which inadvertently finds itself in a position of having employed an individual with either false, or non-compliant Right to Work credentials.

Or put another way – be careful what you wish for!