Right to work checking process is changing

The process for checking the right to work of British and Irish citizens is changing on 1 October. But, research has shown that almost half of UK businesses are not prepared for these changes. Employers have a legal obligation to ensure employees have the proper authority to work in the UK. Getting these checks wrong can lead to fines of up to £20,000 per illegal worker, disqualification as a company director, being prohibited from sponsoring migrant workers and the seizure of earnings made as a result of the illegal work. As such, it’s imperative employers fully understand the correct way to complete right to work checks.

During the Covid pandemic, the government introduced ‘temporary Coronavirus-adjusted right to work checks.’ This allowed employers to screen and onboard staff whilst minimising exposure to the virus and alleviated the practical difficulties of manually checking documents for staff who were working remotely. The adjusted process eliminated the need for in-person checks by asking the employee to submit a scanned or photograph copy of their document (e.g. passport) then arranging a video call to verify the identity of the person. But, after 30 September 2022, this will no longer be permissible.

From 1 October 2022, employers can no longer use the adjusted digital checks to check the right to work of British and Irish citizens. Instead, they must either complete checks manually or engage an Identity Service Provider (IDSP) to do a digital check on their behalf using Identification Document Verification Technology (IDVT).

Digital identity verification conducted by IDSPs is the process of obtaining evidence of the prospective employee’s identity, checking that it is valid and belongs to the person who is claiming it. Holders of valid British or Irish passports (or Irish passport cards) can demonstrate their right to work using this method, and employers will be provided with an output of the IDVT identity check.

It remains the employer’s responsibility to obtain the IDVT check from the IDSP and ensure it is in a clear, legible format that cannot be altered. If this is done correctly, employers will have a continuous statutory excuse against liability for a civil penalty, in the event they are found to have employed someone who does not actually have the right to work in the UK.

IDSPs can carry out digital identity verification to a range of standards or levels of confidence, but the Home Office recommends that employers only accept checks via an IDSP that satisfy a minimum of a Medium Level of Confidence. A list of certified providers is available on “GOV.UK: Digital identity certification for right to work, right to rent and criminal record checks.” It is not mandatory to use a certified provider; employers may use a provider not featured within this list if they are satisfied that they can provide the required checks.

It's important to remember that digital checks, through the services of an IDSP, can only be utilised for British and Irish citizens. To check the right to work of foreign nationals, employers should either complete a manual check or use the Home Office’s online checking service.

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