With the UK in the grip of a much-publicised skills shortage, many businesses may consider looking to recruit from beyond our shores. However, before any candidate from overseas starts a new role, organisations need to ensure potential applicants are eligible for employment in this country.
Right to work (RTW) checks help prevent organisations from employing illegal workers that have not been granted permission either to enter or to stay in the UK. In addition, RTW checks can also prevent companies employing a person who has permission to work that is invalid, expired or otherwise ceased (for example, cancelled or curtailed by the UK Home Office), or subject to a condition preventing them from accepting employment in the UK.
Employing an illegal worker due to insufficient RTW checks can result in heavy civil penalties. Plus, along with a number of other legislative HR changes happening this year, new guidance from the UK government on RTW checks comes into effect on 1st October 2022: so, it’s in every organisation’s best interest to ensure these critical assessments are done correctly.
Here’s what HR need to know…
How can HR check for a person’s right to work?
There are currently two ways HR teams can check for a prospective employee’s right to work status:
1. Asking for a share code
The first – and perhaps easiest – way a non-UK applicant can prove their right to work is by obtaining a share code from the UK government. An employer can then input the code into the gov.uk website to view a job applicant’s right to work details.
What is a share code?
A share code is an online nine-digit alpha-numerical code provided by the UK government to enable non-UK nationals to prove their right to work. This is because under the current RTW checks, employers can no longer accept EU, European Economic Area (EEA) or Swiss passports or ID cards to prove an applicants’ immigration status.
A share code is only provided once a person can prove their immigration status and right to work in the UK. They can do this by using the gov.uk portal, which can be accessed here.
2. Performing a manual check
The second method HR can use to check someone’s right to work status is by performing a manual check. This method requires the applicant to supply one document from each of the Home Office’s lists of acceptable documents: these can include their passport, birth or adoption certificate, immigration status documents, and certificates of naturalisation. This method is also appropriate for applicants who are British or Irish nationals. You can read the full list by following this link.
What should be done during a manual check of someone’s RTW status?
If you’re performing a manual check on an applicant’s RTW status, the most important thing employers and HR teams will need to do is to check that provided documents are genuine, and that the person presenting them is the prospective or existing employee.
This is where having a keen eye for detail can be hugely beneficial. HR teams should carefully check photographs to ensure they match the person’s appearance. In addition, check that dates are consistent across all documents and that there are no discrepancies or conflicting information.
You can read more about conducting a manual document-based RTW check here.
What if a foreign national has a biometric residence card, residence permit or frontier work permit?
As of 6th April 2022, manual RTW checks for people wanting to work in the UK were no longer permitted for foreign nationals that have biometric proof of right to work or a frontier work permit.
For employers to check the validity of these documents, prospective employees will need to provide their date of birth and share code to allow the employer to check their status using the Government’s free online checking service.
Do you have to check an applicant’s right to work documentation in person?
No. This is because during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK Home Office brought in temporary changes meaning that employers could ask for documents digitally and check them on a video call – rather than in person.
When will the temporary RTW changes end?
From 1st October 2022, the temporary RTW checks of foreign nationals originally introduced in March 2020 will no longer be accepted. However, this doesn’t mean a return to mandatory in-person checking of documents.
Instead, employers can use a Digital Identity Service Provider (IDSP) that uses Identity Document Validation Technology (IDVT) to validate a foreign applicant’s proof of right to work. IDSPs complete the documentation checks on behalf of employers for a set fee. The RTW check involves submitting digital images of personnel documents that are then checked by IDVT, rather than an employer.
You can read the latest official guidance on digital identity certification by following this link. You can also find a list of government-certified IDSPs here.
What are the penalties for not conducting RTW checks?
The UK government takes RTW checks extremely seriously, and the penalties for failing to ensure someone has the right to work in the UK reflect this.
An organisation that doesn’t do everything within its power to ensure a prospective candidate has the right to work in the UK can receive a civil penalty of up to £20,000 for each worker employed illegally – not to mention suffering the inevitable damage to its own reputation.
In addition, an individual can face up to five years in prison if they’re found guilty of employing someone they knew – or had reasonable cause to believe – did not have the right to work in the UK.
How can HR software help?
With RTW checks being a critical but potentially time-consuming part of any recruitment process, great HR software solutions can help make the process more streamlined and compliant.
Take the Cezanne HR system, for instance. The integrated document management software acts as a comprehensive online HR database that makes it simple to organise, secure and access key organisational and employee data – including RTW checks. Users can store copies of important documents and legal identifiers, such as passports and visas, set notifications to stay on top of renewal dates, and track where employees live, and when they move.
Cloud-based document HR document storage solutions like Cezanne HR also make RTW much simpler and much more secure. It negates the need for hard-copy documents that can potentially be lost, stolen or damaged. By using a Cloud-based solution, you’ll benefit from advanced application security and infrastructure that ensures sensitive HR data and documents held in the system are kept safe and secure.