Checking right to work in the UK is an essential part of regulatory compliance. The authorities insist on employers checking all prospective employees, with penalties for failure. Here are the key facts, and how to ensure compliance.

UK organisations are legally obliged to prevent illegal work from taking place on their watch. The upshot is that basic employment background checks must be undertaken to ensure that all UK-based staff, regardless of nationality, race, or ethnicity, and whether born at home or abroad, have the required permission to work. Singling out non-nationals could lead to complaints of unlawful discrimination.

What are the consequences of not checking right to work in the UK?

Any failure to conduct the requisite UK background checks can lead to hiring someone whose identity documents are incorrect or fraudulent. Such individuals may not have a right to work in the country.

Looking broader, the number of recorded identity fraud cases is on the rise. According to the Cifas Fraudscape 2023 report, such incidents increased by 23% to 277,000 in 2022. They accounted for over two thirds (68%) of all cases recorded in the National Fraud Database.

For organisations, the repercussions of not checking right to work in the UK are severe. Employers can be hit by civil penalties of up to £20,000 per illegal worker. Other potential impacts include criminal charges, long-term damage to reputation and, ultimately, business closure.

On the upside, conducting the required checks correctly should provide you with a statutory defence against any allegations of breaching compliance rules. This, in turn, should safeguard you from any penalties if you have unknowingly taken on an illegal worker.

Recent changes to the RTW checking system

There have been some recent changes to UK government guidance about RTW checks that are worth knowing about:

Identity service providers (IDSPs)

Since April 2022, these providers have the authority to make digital RTW checks for employers on British or Irish citizens with valid passports, including Irish passport cards. To be certified, however, they must use Identification Document Validation Technology.

Biometric Residence Permits and Biometric Residence Cards no longer accepted

These are no longer eligible RTW documents for non-UK and Irish citizens. Holders of such cards currently need to show they are eligible to work using a share code they can generate at the Home Office website.

Video link option withdrawn

Since October 2022, employees cannot permit candidates to show them their passports over a video link as Covid-adjusted RTW checks are no longer valid. Using certified IDSPs or undertaking physical face-to-face checks yourself are the only options now available.

Choose robust and reliable RTW checking

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Our expert background checking services simplify things by validating RTW documentation quickly, efficiently, and accurately for you.

  • We use a certified IDSP to ensure the identity document verification process meets the highest compliance standards and adheres to all Home Office guidelines and standards.
  • Our own digital RTW ID verification system streamlines the process still further by employing facial recognition and fraud detection technology. Candidates simply take a selfie and photos of the required RTW documents using a mobile phone, tablet, or desktop camera. A combination of artificial intelligence and human expertise then walks them through the process, while comparing photos and authenticating documents. This results in less administrative effort, faster checks, and a better overall candidate experience.

Robust and reliable background checking is vital in a world where identity theft and fraud are on the rise. Protect your organisation by partnering with a trusted provider that understands and delivers this.

Learn more about our watertight right to work checks