The implementation of a permanent digital right to work scheme in October 2022 was a watershed moment that has revolutionised the way that UK businesses onboard staff. Short-term changes to regulatory guidance in the COVID labour market heightened the call for a permanent digital scheme after the Home Office’s temporary adjustments lay the groundwork for a faster scheme that has been made safer by technology’s capability to detect fraudulent documents.

The new scheme has allowed businesses to remain agile and modern but work still needs to be done to refine the scheme and allow businesses to respond to the government’s call for growth. More broadly, in its current form, the digital right to work scheme has split the labour market into three groups:

  1. Overseas work-seekers who can obtain a share code from Home Office to validify right to work
  2. UK and Irish work-seekers with an in-date passport that can utilise digital right to work checks
  3. UK and Irish work-seekers without an in-date passport that must revert to in-person checks OR send right to work documents in the post

In its current form, the digital right to work scheme has left a section of the UK labour market anchored in the past. Census 2021 data reveals that around 8 million people do not have a passport in England and Wales. The same data reveals that 46.6 million people do have a passport, but this data does not reveal what proportion of these passports are in-date. When viewed through the lens of a three-tiered approach, we have a workforce in the millions unable to utilise the benefits of a digital route into work, and organisations who must revert to obsolete checks to accommodate these work-seekers.

The Better Hiring Institute has both amplified praise for the new scheme as well as voiced concerns over the scheme’s inability to fully safeguard the hiring process from, among other things, the rise in fraudulent documents, which, according to Cifas, have increased by 23% compared with pre-pandemic. The Better Hiring Institute is committed to working with industry and government to implement a second phase of the scheme to address concerns across the labour market.


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