In-person RTW checks are a step backwards

The issue that has brought together the whole recruitment sector (possibly for the first time) was the Home Office’s announcement that the recently introduced virtual checks for all UK-based workers would be removed and replaced by the old system of in-person checks, writes Adrian Thomas

The issue that has brought together the whole recruitment sector (possibly for the first time) was the Home Office’s announcement that the recently introduced virtual checks for all UK-based workers would be removed and replaced by the old system of in-person checks.

With the Bank of England and CBI reporting the UK economy to be bouncing back far faster than many had expected, it was with some surprise that the Home Office decided to reverse the implementation of virtual Right to Work checks that the recruitment industry had introduced as part of creating Covid-19 safe workspace. 

The virtual checks have played a key role in enabling employers to offer work well beyond the traditional ‘travel to work’ radius and have enabled candidates to compete more easily for roles from anywhere in the UK – and beyond. This has given candidates increased opportunities to secure work and given employers wider opportunities to find the staff they needed. The ability to recruit, on-board and train remotely has, no doubt, enabled people to return to employment faster and reduce pressure on the Treasury furlough scheme.

The move towards increased technology in attraction and selection in recent years has meant that the recruitment industry has been able to pivot to a virtual solution for the key employment and referencing checks required prior to employment commencing, and these checks were proving efficient and reliable. It should not, therefore, have been a surprise when the whole recruitment industry, agency and in-house have together reacted with astonishment when the government – having supported a ‘build back better’ mantra – sought to return to in-person (often paper-based) checks.   

Returning to the old in-person checks will have a huge negative impact on the economy when we, as the government says, should be ‘building back better’. Creating Covid-19 safe places to undertake the checks, requiring people to travel potentially hundreds of miles (against government advice), diverting the energy of the recruitment team to change and build alternative processes when they could be hiring and creating job opportunities will all have a negative impact on the bounce-back of the economy. 

It’s easy to get RTW checks confused with immigration. Workers entering employment in the UK from overseas were previously able to undertake the Right to Work checks virtually, and the proposed reversal of virtual RTW checks would not affect them. 

Certainly, the delay in re-introducing in-person Right to Work checks to 21 June 2021 is welcomed and will allow organisations time to pivot back to the old ways of working. But we also believe that this is the perfect opportunity for the government to support better ways of working, moving to modern virtual checks permanently and to support industry to efficiently hire back the workforces that will grow the British economy. 

We therefore continue to call for the current virtual arrangements to continue beyond June 21, 2021 and to be made permanent.

Adrian Thomas is a director of Walbridge Ltd which specialises in advising in-house recruitment teams on Talent Acquisition practice. He is a civilian adviser to the Armed Forces Recruitment Programme and the immediate past chair of the RL100.

image credit |  Ilija Erceg / shutterstock

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