In an ideal world, a strong job candidate’s time to hire would be virtually zero. In reality, there are a number of bureaucratic and administrative boxes to be ticked first. One of those is properly verifying a job application’s right to work in the UK before you hire them - otherwise known as a ‘right to work check’. Since April 2022, employers have been able to use digital identity service providers to streamline their right to work checks for eligible candidates. In this article, we take a look at what’s changed in the legislation, how to properly conduct a right to work check, and how RefNow can help you minimize your time to hire.

An Employer’s Guide to Right To Work Checks in 2023

What is a Right To Work Check?

First, let’s take a look at what a right to work check is and why employers have to do them.

All employers in the UK have a legal duty to try and stop illegal working. Part of acting on this responsibility is conducting right to work checks before employing anybody new. This process ensures that you don’t hire anybody whose immigration status prevents them from working legally in the UK.

Beyond fulfilling your legal responsibility as an employer, doing proper right to work checks is an important way of creating a reliable ‘statutory excuse’. This means protecting yourself from legal liability if you’re found to have employed someone who shouldn’t be working. If you don’t do proper right to work checks, you could face a civil penalty.

Right to work checks aren’t a one-time event either. If you have an employee whose right to work is time-limited, you need to make sure you do a follow-up right to work check shortly before their right to work is due to expire.

Right To Work Checks: What’s Changing?

There are two key changes that have happened in the past year:

April 2022: Digital Right To Work Checks

Since the 6th April 2022, employers have been able to enlist the services of an Identity Service Provider (IDSP)  to use Identity Document Validation Technologies (IDVT) for right to work checks for British and Irish citizens. IDSPs are specialised providers of identity verification services. This means that you no longer have to do manual right to work checks but instead make use of digital identification checks which can be used as a right to work check.

October 2022: COVID Adjustments Ended

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government made adjustments to right to work checks. These came to an end on the 30 September 2022.

How to do a Right To Work Check

There are three ways to do a right to work check. The method you use sometimes depends on either you or the candidate’s personal preference. In some cases, their immigration status may dictate which type of right to work check you have to do:

Manual Right To Work Check

You can choose to do a manual document-based right to work check. There are two lists of documents that you can reference for this type of right to work check: List A is for people with a continuous right to work in the UK. List B is for people with a temporary right to work in the UK.

A proper manual right to work check has three stages:

  1. Get the original physical documents from your potential (or existing) employee
  2. Check all the documents are genuine and relate to the person in question. This must be done in the presence of the document holder (either in person or via live video). This means cross-checking all the photos and dates of birth for consistency, verifying that they have not expired, and checking the type of work they’re permitted to do.
  3. Make a clear copy of every document. This must be in a format that can’t later be manually altered. You must then retain a secure electronic or hard copy.

Identity Service Provider (IDSP)

As we mentioned earlier, since April 2022, employers have been able to use Identity Document Validation Technology (IDVT) through the services of an Identity Service Provider. The IDSP helps employers to complete the digital identity verification part of right to work checks for British and Irish citizens with a valid passport.

In order to obtain an ongoing statutory excuse, employers must:

  • Use the IDSP to check the job candidate’s British or Irish passport
  • Obtain the IDVT check with a clear copy of the identity check from the IDSP and check that it is consistent with the new employee
  • Carry out due diligence to show they are satisfied that the IDSP they chose has completed the check properly and thoroughly.
  • Keep a copy of the identity check in a format that cannot be altered for the duration of employment and a further 2 years after they leave the business.

The Government has a list of certified Identity Service Providers that you can choose from. It is your responsibility as the employer to get the IDVT check from your IDSP. Here are RefNow, we use YOTI, a certified IDSP, to carry out our users’ RTW checks quickly and effectively.

Home Office Online Service

You can also use the Home Office’s Online Service to do a right to work check. But this will only be possible for people with certain types of immigration status: those with an eVisa, Biometric Residence Card or Permit, or a Frontier Worker Permit.

The Online Service works through ‘share codes’. You should ask the job candidate for their share code which will enable you to access their right to work information.

Employer Checking Service

If you are unable to check a job application’s right to work online using their share code or original documents, you’ll have to use the Employer Checking Service. This involves asking the Home Office to check someone’s immigration status and usually applies to people with outstanding appeals, reviews, or applications with the Home Office or those who arrived in the UK before 1989. Some people may also have been given a digital or non-digital certificate of application that requires you to ask the Home Office for their right to work.

Quick & Easy Right to Work Checks with RefNow

Since Right to Work Checks are legally required, it makes sense to use a tool that integrates them seamlessly into your overall hiring process. You can perform RTW checks using RefNow’s ‘Digital ID check’ feature. We use a government-approved IDSP called YOTI to validate and verify your candidate’s uploaded documents quickly and seamlessly.  

This means you can perform both your reference and right to work checks using RefNow for a smoother onboarding process, less paperwork, and a reduced time to hire.

Smooth onboarding

The last thing you want to do is overwhelm a potential job candidate with emails and requests for documentation. Using RefNow, you can carry out reference and right to work checks using a consolidated portal. This means less administration for you, a single point of contact for your candidates, and quicker turnaround times for both checks.

Less paperwork & easy access to key documentation

Your candidate’s reference and right to work checks will be finalised in a single PDF and stored securely for easy access in your RefNow dashboard.

Reduced time to hire

When it comes to hiring and onboarding new employees, you want the process to be as quick and simple as possible - for everyone involved. RefNow offers you a one-click workflow, so you can insert a candidate’s details in a single system for both reference and right to work checks. Since you won’t need to work with two siloed systems to manage your candidates’ details, you’ll be able to streamline and optimise your hiring process.

FAQs about Right To Work Checks

How long do Right To Work Checks take?

Right to work checks can be effectively instantaneous, so you don’t need to anticipate or factor in drawn-out waiting times. Though this does, of course, vary from case to case.

Are Right To Work Checks A Legal Requirement?

Yes, Right to Work Checks are part of your legal duty as an employer to prevent illegal working. You should factor these checks into your hiring process to ensure they don’t extend your time to hire.

Why are Right To Work Checks important?

On a societal scale, right to work checks are an important barrier of defence against illegal working in the UK. For you as an employer, right to work checks are an important way of protecting yourself from legal liability because you can prove you’ve done your due diligence.

What happens if I don’t do a right to work check?

You could open yourself up to a civil penalty of up to £20,000 for each illegal worker if you are found to not have undertaken a right to work check - or carried out checks that didn’t meet Government guidelines.

How can I perform a Digital Right To Work check?

RefNow provides a quick and simple option to check your employees right to work with our Government Approved Digital ID provider (YOTI). Book a demo with a member of our friendly team who will be more than happy to guide you through the process so that you can get started in minutes.

If you would like to learn more about how RefNow's automated Employment Referencing software can help your organisation, reach out to us today and get your first 5 checks free.