The plan to reverse digital Right to Work (RTW) checks for new staff could delay 300,000 people in starting work each week, the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) has warned.
Digital RTW checks were introduced on March 30 2020, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic to allow employers to hire new staff without having to meet them in person to check documents.
However, the Home Office reversed this change on June 21 2021, despite the final easing of restrictions being delayed until the middle of July.
The REC is urging the Home Office to extend the digital checks while consultations on a permanent digital solution take place or at least until all Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted.
Kate Shoesmith, deputy chief executive of the REC, said: “There are significant labour shortages across the UK right now in every sector. Any delays to hiring could have serious consequences for companies and the recovery.
“Digital Right to Work checks have saved employers time and money and helped people get back into work quickly while public health measures have been in place.”
Shoesmith added that, based on the REC’s experience, the digital RTW checks have also improved compliance levels across businesses in the UK.
The REC has conservatively estimated that its member recruitment businesses conduct around 300,000 RTW checks every week, with each one taking approximately five minutes.
An in-person check would take roughly 45 minutes and has associated costs for travel, cleaning and other expenses, the REC said.
“It makes no sense for government to shoot themselves in the foot and return to mandating in-person checks when the use of digital checks has been a success story of the pandemic,” she added. “Many businesses and the public are understandably disappointed that the full re-opening of the economy has been delayed. But now this has happened, it is vital that government extends the targeted support measures that have helped businesses through the restrictions – including digital Right to Work checks.”