Time to check your right to work process?

We’ve read several reports recently about employers not having a complete right to work process in place. And some of those issues have been reflected in conversations we’ve had since the start of the new year.

What’s the problem?

It seems to be that employers aren’t aware of the right to work guidance and are making assumptions about the documents they can use to check that candidates have the right to work in the UK. What’s more, some employers do not store or manage Right to Work information properly even if they’ve collected it. In October last year, the government updated their guidance from the temporary guidance issued during the Coronavirus pandemic – and many employers were completely unaware of the changes, even as they were about to come into force.

What does this mean?

A right to work check is a legal requirement, allowing the employer to demonstrate that they have proof that a candidate is eligible to work legally in the UK. If you fail to do this, you can be subject to a fine of up to £20,000 for each ineligible employee. You’ll also potentially face a custodial sentence, and your business reputation will take a significant knock.

The government’s guide, An employer’s guide to right to work checks, states: “If you conduct the checks as set out in this guide and the code of practice, you will have a statutory excuse against liability for a civil penalty in the event you are found to have employed someone, who is disqualified from carrying out the work in question, by reason of their immigration status.”

So, if you carry out your right to work checks properly, and in line with government guidance, you would not receive a penalty if that worker is later found to be an illegal worker.

What should I be doing?

You should have a clear, written process to help you conduct right to work checks for every hire. This should include:

  • Conducting the checks before your new employee starts working for you
  • Showing clearly how you will store any personal information, in line with data protection laws
  • Having a timetable for re-checking right to work if the individual has a visa or other documentation that comes to an end during their employment with you

There are three approved ways of organising a right to work check:

  • A manual check – you are responsible for obtaining documentation from the lists approved by the government. You must then check that documentation to make sure it is genuine, and you must keep a copy of each document in a way that cannot be manually altered. You should also have a separate record of when the checks were undertaken, and you need to store all the relevant information during the period of employment and up to two years after the employment ends.
  • An Identity Service Provider check – you can manage your right to work checks digitally by using the Identity Document Validation Technology. To do this, you’ll need to use an approved supplier – the Identity Service Provider. This option is for valid British or Irish passport holders only, and the candidate must agree to this type of check.
  • A Home Office check – if your candidate has a current immigration work status, you can use a Home Office service to check this status online. This may not cover all types of immigration work documents, so you may have to use your manual check process instead.

At Objective HR, we can assist with digital right to work checks - they are quick and cost effective. All we need is your candidate’s mobile number and email address. We’ll send them an SMS message to get things started. There’s no need for them to download an app or login to a portal – they simply take a selfie and a photo of their passport. The check usually comes back within 24 hours and we send you a complete Right to Work report that you can keep for your records.

A digital right to work check is quick and compliant.

It's worth bearing in mind that 20% of the UK population do not have a passport and would fall out of this process. There are also occasions where individuals do not want to provide their information digitally and so would fall out of the process – in these cases, we can help you to make sure your manual process is thorough and within the government’s requirements.

Why it’s a serious risk to ignore candidate screening and referencing

Pre-employment screening and referencing should be a key part of your recruitment process. Aside from the fact that you have a legal obligation to make certain checks, screening also ensures that the person you are employing is who they claim to be – with the qualifications, experience and background they claim to have.

As many businesses have discovered to their cost, failing to properly screen and reference candidates can lead to a range of issues – from theft and fraud to violent or unsafe behaviour. And for businesses employing someone who doesn’t have the right to work in the UK, there are both civil and legal consequences that could seriously damage your reputation.

Making screening part of your process

Our advice is to make sure that pre-employment reference and screening is a habitual part of your recruitment process. For many businesses, this process can be explained in a simple flowchart – you can work on this alongside your HR adviser or recruitment agency to make sure it covers all your requirements.

The screening and referencing part of the process may come in at different stages for different businesses. For most businesses, however, these checks take place pre-employment – once the candidate has been selected and the offer made. In these circumstances, the offer is usually ‘conditional’. This means that the business requires successful screening and referencing results, as well as satisfactory personal references, before the offer is made final.

What screening checks are necessary?

The range of checks that you want to include in your process are likely to be tailored to the type of business you run, but there are some that you are legally obliged to do. You have a legal duty to make sure that anyone you employ has the right to work in the UK. It’s important to note that, whatever the circumstances, you can be subject to both civil and criminal penalties if you are found to be employing someone who does not have that right. Civil fines can be up to £20,000. And as far as the criminal legislation is concerned, you can face unlimited fines and a prison term of up to five years if you are found to have knowingly employed someone who doesn’t have the right to work in the UK.

So, at the very least, you should ask prospective employees to supply their original right-to-work documents. You should then take ‘all reasonable steps’ to make sure that the document is genuine, and relates to the individual applying for the job. You also need to check that the document allows that person to work in the type of role they are applying for. Once you are satisfied, you need to copy the document and keep it in a secure format that cannot be altered.

Even for those who have an automatic right to work in the UK, you should check identity via passport or driving licence, and make sure that the candidate has the qualifications and work experience they claim. Sadly, it’s not unusual for people to lie on their CV – and this may be even more prevalent at a time where many people are applying for job roles.

Checks for specific sectors

Workers in some sectors need to go through particular screening and referencing checks to make sure that they meet regulatory requirements. These might include the medical, insurance, banking and financial services sectors, where the regulator requires specific checks on criminal background and industry-relevant qualifications or registrations.

If your business operates in a regulated sector, your business and reputation is at significant risk if you employ someone who doesn’t meet the relevant criteria. That’s why it’s important that you are up to date with the latest requirements and invest in reliable screening services that meet your regulator’s requirements.

Getting ahead of the game

It can be daunting to run screening and referencing checks yourself – particularly if you don’t have an in-house HR function. And yet you are still required to check out all the candidates you make job offers to.

So it makes sense to get ahead of the game by outsourcing the screening and referencing part of your process to a trusted partner. This can be a specialist consultancy like Objective HR, which has all the legislative insight and access to the latest screening tools.

All our checks are carried out to recognised standards, including BS7858, and we manage sector-specific checks such as FCA, SMCR, PCI-DSS, Airside and the Care Quality Commission. In addition, we can run identity, qualification, criminal, DBS and employment history checks, giving you a thorough and individual report on each candidate.

To find out more, take a look at our dedicated screening and referencing service, or contact us today.


Have you been affected by CV fraud?

As we move into a position where a large number of people are going to be job-hunting and some employers need to take on increasing numbers of staff, it’s important to make sure that your business is not losing money because of fraudulent candidates.

Research has showed that around 20% of CVs have some sort of misdirection on them, and feedback from employers has highlighted that nearly 50% have experienced candidates who lied about their degree qualifications.

CV and job application fraud has a knock-on effect on your business and finances. If someone is prepared to lie on their CV, they are less likely to be trustworthy employees. And if they have lied about their qualifications, they may not have the essential knowledge, skills and capability that you require for the position.

Fraud in the digital age

Whilst it’s true that it’s harder to commit CV or job application fraud now that so much information is available online for third party sources, it doesn’t seem to have prevented some candidates from trying to get one over on employers.

This type of fraud is often discovered too late: the employee has been hired, paid and invested in. In order to correct the problem you’ll have to spend time and money on dismissing the original employee and starting your recruitment all over again.

  • That’s why it’s so important to have a rigorous screening and referencing programme as part of your recruitment process. And it’s not just about having the process in place; it’s about making it clear to candidates that you will be checking their details for accuracy and honesty. This helps your business in a number of ways:
    Discourages fraudulent candidates from applying for your jobs
  • Enhances your reputation as an employer that values honesty and transparency
  • Gives you confidence that you are spending your recruitment budget efficiently and wisely
  • Builds a strong relationship between you and your candidates/new hires
  • Allows you to concentrate on growing your business successfully


What does screening and referencing offer?

Screening and referencing allows you to make sure that your candidates are who they say they are. It also gives you the opportunity to ensure your candidates have the right to work in the UK – which will become particularly important on January 1st 2021, when new immigration procedures come into force – and it means you can check qualifications, experience and professional memberships.

Screening as part of your recruitment process helps to give your candidates confidence in your process and gives your business confidence in the candidates, and it should be built into your recruitment process as a matter of course.