Challenge the checks

 A campaign in partnership with Migrants Rights Network (MRN)  and Open Rights Group to tackle the roots of vulnerability to Homegrown slavery.

 About 'Challenge The Checks' campaign

The Government's 'hostile environment' policies have brought immigration enforcement into every area of life. This includes the workplace.

The Migrants' Rights Network, Migrants at Work and Open Rights Group have partnered to uncover the negative effects of expecting employers to enforce immigration law in the workplace.

Legislation that is causing this suffering is complex and confusing, incorporating aspects from employment, data rights and Home Office applications. Migrants are effectively living in fear as their futures depend on error-prone digital services or employers who don't understand the rules.

The Challenge the Checks campaign aim to investigate and raise awareness of two key areas:

  • Issues arising from right to work checks including the Government checking service and third-party apps
    • Technical issues with platforms such as share code errors, data sharing, discrimination from facial recognition software and workers being illegally asked to pay for them
  • Unfair dismissal or discrimination in the workplace due to a pending immigration status application in the Home Office, known as Section 3C Leave

This campaign will run indefinitely. The coalition will use their combined expertise to piece together the wide extent of how these two areas are affecting migrant communities across the UK.

What is happening?

Under UK law, the employer carries out a right to work check to establish a 'statutory defence' against an illegal employment offence if an individual cannot demonstrate their right to work.

Although the checks are labelled 'right to work checks', they do not and cannot check workers' legal right to work. It is not the law.

Increasingly, these have become digitised, with companies scrambling to offer their own right to work apps and become Government certified Identity Service Providers (IDSPs).

These right to work services are error-prone and raise serious questions around personal data, data sharing and discrimination. The digital identity checks rely on third-parties which means personal data is at the mercy of others.

There's also another pivotal concern around right to work policies: what happens to people whose application is pending with the Home Office? Under legislation called Section 3C Leave they're protected from becoming an 'overstayer' and can continue to work.

But people aren't being protected. More and more stories are emerging of workers being unfairly dismissed. With no income and no recourse to public funds (NRPF), many are being left destitute: on the verge of poverty and homelessness.

This is affecting hundreds if not thousands of people, and yet there is little to no coverage or data around the issue. Our Challenge the Checks campaign will kick-off by gathering information to uncover how widespread the right to work problems are.

But we need your help. If you have a story to tell or, if you want to discuss your experience in more detail, you can email or call MRN on 07467 284767.

What is wrong with right to work?

'Right to work' or 'right to work checks' are probably terms you've heard a lot. But what do they mean?

In the UK, it has been made 'illegal' to employ someone who does not have permission to work. While there is no legal obligation for an employer to carry out right to work checks, if an employer does carry out one, it will have a statutory excuse against a civil penalty for employing a person illegally. So, it has become in the employers' interest to carry these out.

The employer checks that someone has the right to work in the UK, for how long and is not prohibited from undertaking the work.

However, it's not as straightforward as this. Right to work checks are different for British and Irish citizens, and migrants.

How does it work?

British and Irish citizens' right to work can be verified through third-party providers, known as an Identity Service Provider (IDSP). These use something called Identity Document Validation Technology (IDVT). This is technology that is used to verify someone's identity.

There are now hundreds of these, and it's likely there will be lots more.

Employers can directly use the Government checking service to check a migrant's right to work. This does not use IDVT technology.

So what's the problem?

On the surface, they might seem straightforward enough. But in fact, it's another method of enforcing the Government's 'Hostile Environment' policy.

Many employers are using apps to verify a migrant's right to work, which is incorrect.

This is a really complex and confusing issue, incorporating aspects from employment, data rights and Home Office application processes. The law itself is implemented in a vacuum which has led some employers to shift responsibility onto the worker. Some other issues we have identified include:

  1. These digital checks have the potential to be discriminatory because IDVT technology uses facial recognition software which is already racially biased.
  2. Employers do not understand how right to work checks should be conducted, and do not understand who has the right to work
  3. The online government employer checking service and the Right to Work apps do not work or are prone to errors.
  4. The use of third party providers apps and checking systems means someone's personal information is now at the mercy of others with little to no choice for the worker.

What is Section 3C Leave?

Section 3C Leave is to prevent a person who makes an in-time application to extend their leave from becoming an overstayer while they are awaiting a decision on that application and while any appeal or administrative review they are entitled to is pending.

It also protects them during any following in-time administrative review or in-country appeal after a decision.

Someone has section 3C Leave if they:

  • Have limited leave to enter or remain in the UK
  • Apply to the Secretary of State for variation of that leave
  • The application for variation is made before the leave expires
  • The leave expires without the application for variation having been decided
  • The application for variation is neither decided or withdrawal

If an in-time application has been made to extend or vary leave, section 3C leave extends the person's existing leave until the application is decided or withdrawn.

This is supposed to protect workers, but many aren't being protected.

Tell your story

Our Challenge the Checks campaign aims to raise awareness of how immigration enforcement in the workplace is affecting migrant workers all over the UK.

But we need your help.

Working in partnership and placing the lived experiences of migrant communities at the centre of our work is a priority for us here at the Migrants' Rights Network. As part of this campaign, we want to understand how, and to what extent migrants are being affected by the hostile environment.

If you feel comfortable sharing your story with us, we would love to hear from you. How much you share is completely up to you and you can take as much time as you need. If you want to get in touch, you can email or call 07467284767 to speak to one of their friendly team members.

We will also be launching a survey soon, so if you feel more comfortable sharing your experiences that way, keep an eye out for the survey link.

Please also be aware, your story will not be shared without your consent.

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