The Home Office has announced that the reintroduction of in-person, UK immigration right to work checks will be pushed back to 21 June. Employers were initially notified that in-person UK visa right to work checks would resume on 17 May. The decision to delay the resumption of in-person checks has been widely welcomed by British businesses.
An extension to the delay follows complaints from employee groups. In April, the Home Office announced that it was ending coronavirus allowances that had allowed employers to use video calls, and accept scans or photographs of documents, as proof of a foreign national’s right to work in the UK, and that right to work fines would return.
The Home Office said: “The new date for reintroducing in-person checks aligns with the easing of lockdown restrictions and social distancing measures.”
Work from home advice
It’s understood that UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, plans to drop the work from home advice on 21 June, provided that the current easing of coronavirus restrictions continues to go to plan.
Shazia Ejaz, the campaigns director at the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), which urged the Home Office to delay the return of in-person, UK immigration right to work checks, called the extended delay a ‘big win’ for UK firms.
Ejaz said: “It allows recruiters to continue with digital checks while social distancing is still in place. Recruiters have proven that these checks work and increase efficiency for all concerned.”
The REC campaigns director said that the REC would continue to push for digital checks to remain in place beyond 21 June.
Ejaz comments were echoed by legal counsel and head of public policy at the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSC), Tania Bowers. The APSC had also written to the Home Secretary to protest the early return of in-person checks.
Bowers said: “We had hoped that the Home Office would prioritise the expansion of digital checks – a process much more suitable for the modern world of flexible work. Physical checks fly in the face of the Home Office’s ‘digital by design’ concept.”
In-person doesn’t mean safer
“Physical checking does not mean safer. People are not as good as technology is at spotting fraudulent documents,” Bowers added.
Meanwhile, the head of UK immigration at Fieldfisher, Gillian McKearney, argued that while many employers will welcome the delay, they would like to see a permanent change based on how the labour market has changed so dramatically over the past 12 months.
She said: “Lack of signs over a permanent change is a great concern to many businesses that are finding that offering fully remote contracts is helping them to secure better talent.”
McKearney urged employers to continue preparing for the return of in-person checks, warning that the Home Office’s extension is only delaying the issue of potential discrimination against prospective candidates who are unable to show their official documents in person.
She said: “From 21 June onwards employers will need to check an applicant's original documents in person or check this information online where available.”
“If an employer is unable to do this and therefore doesn’t go ahead with the employment offer, employers could find themselves with a discrimination claim against them, which could go to the employment tribunal,” McKearney added.
The delay comes after new right to work checks guidance was issued in April.
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