SPONSORED: Right to Work: where should the responsibility lie?

Right to Work checks

Who should take responsibility for the complex and challenging process of employee Right to Work checks?

Clarifying a worker’s Right to Work in the UK is a thorny issue. In October 2015, the Home Office launched Operation Magnify, designed to highlight the issues (primarily in construction, care and cleaning industries) and to bring about a sea change in attitudes towards the need to check for valid documentation. In this article, Stephanie Fisher, Head of Workforce Management Solutions at Human Recognition Systems, looks at whether recruiters and other organisations are taking their responsibilities seriously enough.


Carrying out the right checks

Despite governmental focus, and subsequent fines of up to £20,000 per person and prison sentences of up to five years being imposed on offenders, many industries that employ high volume, temporary workers are still perceived as high risk due to a lack of enforced controls on Right to Work. Liability for illegal workers lies with their employer, who has a duty to carry out the correct documentary checks on their direct employees, including employment agencies that employ the worker concerned. Failure to carry out the necessary checks is considered a criminal offence.

In the first quarter of 2017 alone, over 900 workers were found across the UK without the correct permissions to work. Across the calendar year, the resulting fines have amounted to over £40 million. If the fines are so high and so many illegal workers are getting caught, why are UK industries not taking their responsibilities more seriously?


Where does the responsibility lie?

The crux of the issue is one of responsibility – who should be responsible for ensuring that businesses employ 100% legitimate workers and all these workers are fully compliant with Right to Work checks? Exploitation of illegal workers is not acceptable and it needs the whole supply chain to come together to increase transparency relating to employees.

Any business that deals with temporary workforces needs to be regularly auditing their own supply chain to ensure that Right to Work checks are being properly performed – it should be a contractual obligation. Sub-contractors and recruiters need to ensure that the Right to Work checks are being done properly by someone trained to do it and they are 100% compliant. It is not a simple system – there are potentially 17 different documents that can be checked and a multitude of combinations that can validate a Right to Work. The Home Office does offer guidance on the right documentation to ask for but it’s a labour and knowledge intensive process that can be become incredibly complex. For example, many in the recruitment industry are not aware of the special documentation requirements for workers from Croatia, or that out of date UK passports can be accepted as valid documents.

It might be a difficult process, but that’s no reason to eschew full and proper right to work checks on employees. Ensuring compliance is ultimately about protecting the reputation of the organisation you work for, whether that organisation employees directly or acts as a recruiter for other companies. The Home Office have reserved the right to name and shame organisations employing illegal workers and this type of information can be easily shared. Whilst a single illegal worker can result in a £20,000 fine, a drop in the ocean to a FTSE listed company, the damage to reputation can result in falls in share prices, loss of confidence in a board, future contracts being thrown into question and even prison sentences.

Ultimately, it is important to understand the penalties are only applied if the correct Right to Work procedures have not been followed. It may be impossible for a recruiter to distinguish between a fraudulent Right to Work document and real one, but as long as the organisation can prove it has a robust system in place to carry out the required employee vetting process it would not be liable to fines, imprisonment or reputational damage.


Tackling the issue

There is no doubt that right to work is a topic that is going to come under ever increasing scrutiny with continued focus on modern slavery in the media. With Brexit now firmly penned for March 2019, there will be a renewed need to ensure the rights of workers. The key to successfully tackling this issue for sectors with large, temporary workforces is twofold:

  • Directors have to take it seriously – it is a responsibility that every part of the supply chain has to take ownership of.
  • You need a simple and effective checking system that can be incorporated into the business daily life.

Taking responsibility for performing the right checks at the right times for the right people will go a long way to protecting the reputation of many industries and guaranteeing the legitimacy of all employees in UK workplaces. With a reliable system in place to automate these essential checks, not only will this save time and money for the organisation involved but it will also allow the company to be sure negative consequences will be limited if an illegal worker is discovered as the legal employee vetting requirement would have taken place.


Is there a system available to tackle Right to Work checks?

MSite, a Human Recognition Systems product, automates and validates employee identification checks to prove employees are who they say they are, and have a right to work in the UK.




Author: Stephanie Fisher, Head of Workforce Management Solutions at Human Recognition Systems

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