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Social care employers are no strangers to completing thorough checks on new employees; whether permanent, part-time staff or agency/contingent workers.

The sector demands comprehensive verification processes to ensure that staff caring for vulnerable people have been thoroughly vetted.

However, amid the Coronavirus pandemic, along with sweeping financial support schemes and programmes to avoid large-scale economic disaster, the government has announced a temporary easing of right to work checks, to help social care employers streamline the recruitment process.

What Are Right to Work Checks?

Right to work checks determine that an applicant is legally permitted to carry out a job or work placement. These must take place in advance of employment beginning, and typically constitute verifying a person’s ID by analysing an official form of identification.

Before Covid-19, this process would usually involve:

  • Asking the candidate to attend a meeting in person, bringing their ID document(s) with them.
  • Having this ID matched to the applicant, and checked by an appointed person.
  • Applying for a DBS check at the same time, to verify that the person does not have any undisclosed criminal record.
  • Verifying any visa documentation required for overseas workers.

The burden of responsibility falls on social care employers; they have a legal obligation to ensure that employees are legally permitted to work in the UK.

Civil penalties can be issued against employers if they have knowingly employed an illegal worker, regardless of which member of staff carried out the check. Some employers used a third party checking service, partially to delegate the workload and partially to mitigate the responsibility.

Right to Work Checks for Applicants Without Documentation

In some scenarios, it may be that individuals are unable to prove this right.

The number of instances where this is a likelihood has increased as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic; where individuals are unable to travel, have had applications suspended, or immigration proceedings postponed.

The Home Office offers an Employer Checking Service, whereby they will verify an applicant’s immigration status if:

  • The person cannot provide documents – usually because they are pending results of an appeal or Home Office application.
  • The applicant has an Application Registration Card.
  • The candidate has a Certificate of Application issued less than six months ago.
  • The applicant is a Commonwealth citizen and moved to the UK before 1988.

It is important to note that while employers must comply with carrying out right to work checks, they must also not discriminate against any employee or potential employee.

This means giving thought to equal opportunities and offering the same process for verifying and vetting employees regardless of other circumstances.

The Importance of Right to Work Checks in the Health and Social Care Sector

While employing legitimate staff is a priority in all industries, for jobs in care, this is even more crucial.

Every social care applicant must be verified to ensure:

  • That they are legally allowed to work.
  • That they are who they say they are.
  • Safeguarding checks have been completed for the protection of patients.
  • Any certifications or qualifications the applicant purports to have are verified.

Health and social care sectors are responsible for looking after a wide range of people, most of whom are vulnerable. It is therefore vital that any social care worker, carrying out any kind of role, has been verified before they begin work.

Depending on the role and level of check required, examples of the documents accepted as part of a right to work check for jobs in care include:

  • Passport
  • Biometric Residence Permit
  • Residence card
  • Immigration Status Document
  • Positive Verification Notice (from the Home Office)

Documents are categorised into different groups, and the type of check depends on the role in question. For example, an ongoing permanent position requires one right to work check before the job begins, and is not then required again.

Temporary workers may need to undergo a right to work check before employment, and again once permissions granted expire.

Alternatively, this check may need to be carried out every six months.

What Has Happened to Right to Work Checks as a Result of Covid-19?

Some of the most significant changes implemented are around social distancing, and a drive to reduce direct contact.

This means that many social care interviews are conducted remotely, and distance working practises are being implemented in roles where this is possible.

The government has announced several changes to try and streamline the right to work checks required from social care employers to help them meet the guidelines, without stalling recruitment:

  1. Checks may now be conducted via video call rather than in person.
  2. Documents are acceptable via scanned copies or photos, rather than the original being mandatory.
  3. The Employer Checking Service remains available when a candidate cannot provide acceptable documents.

Other requirements remain unchanged, including the lists of accepted documents, and the responsibility to carry out right to work checks for all jobs in social care.

Social care employers have also been reminded of the need to ensure that equal opportunities are offered to all applicants, and nobody is discriminated against because of their inability to provide right to work documentation.

The process for checks during the pandemic is:

  • Request a scanned copy or a photo of the document(s) via email or app.
  • Schedule a video call where the applicant must show the original document(s).
  • Verify the original document(s) on the video call match the scanned copies or photos.
  • Record the check made, and the date, noting that it was carried out under temporary Covid-19 rules.
  • Use the online checking service to verify Biometric Residence documents during the video call, requesting permission from the candidate to view their details.

This process is designed to ensure that remote communications replace in-person right to work checks, and as yet there is no timeline by which these new regulations will become redundant.

At OUTT we maintain the highest level of compliance especially with right to work. Our automated registration process utilises the latest technologies to verify official ID documentation, right to work status, candidate identification using biometric software and proof of address. This is just one of the reasons employers are favouring OUTT over traditional agencies.

What Will Happen to Checks Against Jobs in Care Post-Pandemic?

Right to work checks will always be mandatory, but currently, we cannot know when routine procedures will resume.

The government advises that social care employers will be notified when Covid-19 measures cease. They may then need to carry out follow-up verifications retrospectively for all employees who started work while these reduced measures were in place, or for those who needed a follow-up right to work check during the pandemic.

Although we do not yet know when the measures will end, employers have been notified that they will have an eight-week deadline to carry out these retrospective checks.

If, during a retrospective check, an employee is found not to have permission to be in the UK, or to be working, then their employment must end immediately.

OUTT Social Care App provides social care employers with the platform to easily fill last minute shifts, care rotas and even permanent vacancies direct with the candidate. Register with us now!