What HR needs to know about October’s digital right to work check changes

From 1 October this year, right to work checks will permanently change meaning employers will only be able to hire applicants by meeting them face-to-face or using ID validation technology to check hiring documents.

Going forward, it is recommended that businesses use government-certified Identity Service Providers (IDSPs) to oversee digital right to work checks, but this is not mandatory.

In addition, businesses must keep records of hiring documents for up to two years after an employee’s exit date.

These changes apply to British and Irish citizens; for other applicants, the Home Office operates an online Right to Work Checking Service.

Introducing right to work checks in the UK:

Digital right to work checks to be introduced from April

Right to work digital ID check providers chosen

Right to work checks have been left too late, according to employment trade body

Although these changes to digital checks were first introduced on 6 April 2022, it is from October that applicants will no longer be able to send their right to work documents to an employer via email to verify they can legally work.

This method of checking was introduced temporarily to allow employers to check applicants' documents during pandemic lockdowns.

Both the government and IDSPs argue that this outgoing style of digital checks was easy to manipulate and permanent changes will bring about increased data security, greater protection against fraud, reduced HR resource dedication to GDPR adherence, and more efficient onboarding.

With businesses facing penalties including a £20,000 fine or being banned from sponsoring visas for future foreign nationals if they don’t stay compliant with the new process, Russell King, CEO of government-certified IDSP Xydus, said getting up-to-speed is crucial for employers.

He told HR magazine: “The list of potential consequences for getting digital right to work checks wrong is worrying for many UK businesses.

“Business leaders who feel ill-informed about these changes need to act now and engage with a compliant, certified IDSP."

Mark O’Hara, enterprise sales manager IDSP ID-Pal, said getting the process right before the October deadline can result in better onboarding and recruitment, forestalling negative impacts.

He told HR magazine: “These negative impacts include an inability to obtain credit, disqualification of company directors, a hit on profits…and, at worst, imprisonment.”

Other risks to businesses that do not get it right could be unwanted media attention as well as affects on staff wellbeing.

For example, The Independent recently reported on an employer that sacked a worker who could end up homeless after they misinterpreted right-to-work rules.

Yet, a Reed Screening survey of businesses found that only one in four employers are ready to comply with the new digital protocols and only 10% say they fully understand the changes.

Keith Rosser, director, group risk/Reed Screening, said that with only a few weeks left until the changes employers should start putting in processes immediately in order to access the benefits.

He told HR magazine: “There are just 12 working days left until the change so it is crucial for all businesses that are not able to rely on traditional face-to-face hiring to have a digital service in place.

“We commenced digital right to work at the start of August and found job seekers have been able to complete the check remotely in under three minutes. Already we have discovered five fakes that would have been unlikely to be detected in person or by video interview.

“And though the digital service does come at a cost this can be offset through the efficiency benefits.”

More details about the UK’s digital RTW checks can be found here.