In October 2022, the UK government announced that the temporary arrangements for digital right to work checking introduced during the pandemic were to be made permanent. This news was positively received not only by applicants who find the whole system much easier, but also by organisations such as us here at Clear Check, as it makes our service even more efficient for customers.
Move from a Paper-Based System
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the system for proving applicants had the right to work and live in the UK was purely paper-based. An employer would typically ask someone who had applied for a job to bring their passport or birth certificate into the office, in order to prove nationality. This all changed in 2020 during the first lockdown, where the Home Office allowed employers to meet applicants virtually over video conferencing software such as Zoom or Teams. Applicants were allowed to hold their passports up to the screen, letting employers check in much the same way as if they had the person in front of them.
The process has been refined since the early days of the pandemic, and the new legislation introduced in October 2022 means that employers must have accredited third-party software to do the checks for them, or work with a partner such as Clear Check, which does. The speed of the changes has led to confusion among employers, and research has revealed a high level of uncertainty around legal obligations around identity checking. Worryingly, 3% of businesses surveyed even admitted to not doing any identity checking at all.
Requirement for Right to Work Checks
Right to work checks aren’t just one of those extra pieces of admin which employers can choose whether or not to do. Under the Immigration, Nationality and Asylum Act, all employers have to check that people working for them are legally allowed to take up employment in the UK. This is the case whether the position is full time, part time, permanent or temporary. Employers must also have a system for recording which documents they have seen and do their best to check that documents they are shown are genuine.
Employers still have the option to ask people to bring in their passports for physical checking, and in some situations, this is still the easier option. However, in situations where HR is centralised and applicants live all over the UK, then it makes sense to have a system which makes things as easy as possible for staff and applicants. It also avoids the problem of important documents getting lost in the post or misplaced in the office.
Penalties for Ignoring the Right to Work Checks
Employers shouldn’t be ignoring their legal responsibilities to check the legality of their employees, and there are fairly stiff penalties for those who do. All workers, even those from the UK and Ireland, must have their identities and right to work checked. Employers can be fined up to £20,000 for every person found to be working illegally.