digital divide

Right to Work Checks Risk Digital Divide

Following on from last week’s very late announcement that digital right to work checks can continue until 1 September 2021, we attended today’s meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Digital Identity.

As a reminder, the government plans to discontinue the current digital right to work checks in favour of returning to in-person checks from 1 September 2021.  In today’s meeting there was a lot of discussion about the impact of face to face ID checks vs digital checks, including:

  • Digital checks generally take 5 minutes, compared to 45 minutes for in-person checks;
  • In-person identity checks requires commuting time for both the staff undertaking the check, and also the jobseeker;
  • In-person checks rely on the jobseeker bringing the correct documentation with them, which does not always happen;
  • Enforcing in-person checks does not account for local lockdowns, e.g. people in Scotland were recently precluded from travelling to Manchester;
  • Documentation for in-person checks are easier to fake than digital checks;
  • Fraudulent documents are very sophisticated and therefore difficult to spot;
  • If the jobseeker and employer cannot meet for a face to face ID check, then documents have to be sent via courier/post which is not secure;
  • Many businesses are decentralised and moving towards hybrid working, so there is a question regarding where to send documents through the post;
  • Face to face ID checks limit the freedoms of jobseekers who can only work in their local area in order to get their ID checked.

In short, there is a significant risk of a new digital divide impacting on jobseekers, which would exacerbate current geographic inequalities by precluding candidates in remote locations being able to obtain work if they cannot have their right to work checked.  This is a ludicrous situation given that many jobs can be undertaken remotely, where location would not affect someone’s ability to do the job, if only they can obtain the work in the first place!

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