Scrapping digital right to work checks could create even bigger UK skills deficit

Chris Gray ManpowerGroup UK Director

Chris Gray

With digital proof of Right to Work checks set to become a thing of the past next month, ManpowerGroup’s UK Director, Chris Gray, explains why the virtual checks have been beneficial to businesses nationwide and warns of the risks associated with shifting back to these face-to-face checks.

The Right to Work checks, which help to eliminate illegal working practices, see applicants show their UK passport and/or EU passport, to potential employers to show they have the legal right to work in the UK.

At the start of the pandemic, the UK government introduced digital proof of Right to Work checks to help businesses continue to recruit and grow their business.

The switch to virtual checks has meant that job seekers have been able to send a scanned copy of their documentation to their potential employer, with a confirmation call taking place over a video calling platform such as Teams, FaceTime or Zoom.

These digital checks have been welcomed by employees and employers alike, with employees benefiting by saving both money and time due to not having to travel, sometimes hundreds of miles, for a face-to-face check.

During the last 16 months, ManpowerGroup estimates that it has processed proof of Right to Work for over 70,000 workers virtually, which demonstrates just how successful this way of processing applicants has been.

There is a real talent shortage across the majority of sectors and, with in person checks set to return, this shortage is only going to grow. We should be looking at ways to encourage workers to apply for more roles, not reducing their options.

In our latest Talent Shortage survey, we found that 77% of employers in the UK are not able to find the right skills they need to fill job vacancies with the hardest hit sectors being logistics, manufacturing and IT.

With this shortage in mind, we need to consider two benefits of checking right to work remotely: access to new talent where geographically an in-person check would have been prohibitive and access to remote workers in remote areas who can speedily begin in a new role.

As an industry, our priority is to work as quickly as possible to find the right people, for the right roles. By asking people to travel to in-person checks, we’re slowing down that process even though these last 16 months have shown virtual checks work just as well, if not better.

Not only are they quicker, they also allow businesses to look further afield for talented workers who are a match for their business. As well as being beneficial for employers, the existence of virtual checks has encouraged workers to apply for other roles, which they wouldn’t have previously considered due to the amount of travel needed.

Here at ManpowerGroup, we’re therefore calling on the government to continue the current interim format of virtual Right to Work checks, while it looks to introduce a permanent solution. Returning to in person checks on the 1st of September is not beneficial for employers nor their potential employees. In doing so we believe this continuity will help fill job vacancies, reduce the talent shortage and, in the long term, will contribute to a stronger economy.

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