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How to make right to work checks easier

11 Mar 2019 By Keith Rosser

With Brexit uncertainty looming, HR needs to embrace the quick wins technology offers, says Keith Rosser

At the end of January a small piece of legislation was introduced by the Home Office with little fanfare, allowing an online programme to be released, but it is so often that the simplest of changes can be the most effective. Especially with the speed of change that the UK is going through at the moment. 

In the recruitment industry, we know that the most valuable asset of any organisation is its people. However, checking whether candidates have the right to work in the UK has been complex and time consuming. 

With that in mind, this legislation change, which has allowed there to be online checks for right to work for the first time, will make a huge difference. The new online checking service, which has been supported throughout by the Employers Cooperating with the Home Office (ECHO) committee and is accessible through a government portal, enables UK employers to check right to work, in real time, of a person with a biometric residence permit or residence card. This is just the beginning, with plans to increase the number of documents which can be checked online via the system.

As the UK looks to a technology fuelled future, the simplification and digitisation of checking a person’s right to work has been long overdue. In the wake of an oncoming departure from the EU, I feel this alteration will be more than worth the time it has taken to enact the change – and we were proud to support its development through our work with ECHO.

We have already seen that skill shortages are driving up demand in industries such as hospitality where the proportion of chefs and cooks born outside of the UK increased from 37 per cent to 44 per cent between 2011-2016. As such, in comparison to 12 months previously restaurants are advertising salaries for executive chefs 8.5 per cent higher, according to the 2019 Reed Salary Guides.

The finance district in the city of London is also set to be heavily affected as 41 per cent of its workforce are from outside of the UK with 18 per cent of that number from EU countries. This helps highlight the amount of people and range of employers that will be affected by right to work changes.

For employers looking to a migrant workforce, making sure due diligence is done and the workforce is legal has been an ongoing concern – across the board, regardless of industry or pay bracket. A great deal of time and money is needed, and as there are currently 3.5 million non-UK citizens employed in the UK, anything that improves the speed of these checks – regardless of leaving the EU – will help UK businesses and employees.

The goal of ECHO has always been to modernise, and systematise, right to work checking in a way that introduces a safer and more robust checking system for employers. With the UK exiting the EU – and employers needing to work with greater speed and agility to keep pace with competition across the globe – using technology to speed up a traditionally lengthy and expensive processes will help. No matter how simple that technology is.

Perhaps these are the ‘quick wins’ that we, in the HR industry, need to focus on in order to get the biggest gains from technology in the shortest returns and do the best for UK business and employees going forward.

Keith Rosser is director at Reed Screening

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