REC campaigning leads to permanent introduction of digital right to work checks

Written by the Recruitment & Employment Confederation

The Home Office has announced that a permanent system of digital right to work (RTW) checks will be put into place from 6 April 2022, following campaigning from the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC).

Digital RTW checks have been in place since March 2020 and were a resounding success during the pandemic – simplifying the hiring process and allowing people to quickly and safely get into work, especially in rural areas and for remote workers. The use of these digital checks was extended multiple times as a result of extensive pressure from the REC and others.

The Home Office has been working with many organisations, including the REC, to bring forward a permanent digital solution. This system should allow employers and recruiters to continue placing people into job more quickly and easily – good news considering the serious labour shortages they are still experiencing. But the solution must remain affordable for all employers – not just the largest firms. 

We are delighted that the digital system for checking someone’s right to work in the UK will be a permanent fixture from April 2022. Recruiters have told us throughout the pandemic that this system is quicker and easier, reducing the time it takes them to get candidates into work while increasing levels of compliance and helping to keep staff safe during the pandemic. These benefits will remain important as the jobs market recovers, in the face of shortages of candidates for key roles.

We remain concerned by the potential costs of the system, however. With recruiters placing a million temporary workers into roles every day, a system that charges pounds per check will be unsustainable for smaller firms. Every week, hundreds of thousands of checks are undertaken – at that scale, it should be easy to make the process low-cost. This will be a key priority for the REC in the months to come.

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the REC

The Home Office review states that the costs of using the new digital system will have to be met by employers. This could vary from £1.45 to £70 per check. The REC conservatively estimates that its member recruitment businesses conduct around 300,000 RTW checks every week. As a result, this could result in millions of pounds of extra costs for business at a time when many are still struggling from the impact of the pandemic, as well as having to deal with increases to National Insurance and rising inflation. Processing costs for online checks like these, at this scale, should be measured in pennies – not pounds.

In addition, these costs will only apply to RTW checks conducted on UK nationals. Meanwhile, for foreign nationals, employers can continue to use the existing free online checking service for overseas candidates. This would result in a two-tier system which disadvantages UK jobseekers in the labour market, while government are also trying to incentivise employers not to rely on workers from abroad.