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The importance of right to work compliance

Mike Boxall
early talent

From December 2020, UK businesses will be subject to EU right to work (RTW) checks. This lead up time is given to ensure businesses have an infallible process in place and are prepared for changes to legislation. Currently, those found employing staff without RTW face heavy penalties. If an organisation has ‘reasonable cause to believe’ one of their staff does not have RTW, they can face an unlimited fine and up to five years in prison. If checks were carries out to an insufficient standard, penalties can include a fine of up to £20,000 fine per illegal worker without a statutory excuse; loss of trading licence; loss of sponsorship licence; and being placed on the Government’s public “name and shame” list. 

Thus, it is vital that businesses have strong RTW check systems. The traditional checking process has been somewhat laborious, requiring an employer to check an applicant’s original documents with the applicant present and to keep copies of the documents with a record of the date they were checked. 

A number of details need to be checked, including that any right to work has not expired; that the applicant has the right to carry out the type of work for which they’re applying; that the photographs are the same across the documents and are of the applicant; and if two documents give different names, that the applicant has documents to show why this is.

With a large quantity of information to be collected and regularly updated for each employee, technology has naturally come into its own. The marketplace for automated RTW checks is a crowded one. Though the process itself is made easier through development, the choice of system to use becomes the first task on an employer’s list. 

Where to start
Sitemark is a benchmarking service for the facilities management sector. Sitemark was recently hired to independently assess and benchmark RTW products from uComply, including uAuthenticate. In the process, Sitemark created a benchmark for ‘best-in-class’ RTW technologies. The process determined the minimum requirements and best-in-class elements of a RTW system and whether uComply offered these. The assessment was conducted after reviewing Home Office guidance, a number of competitor solutions, user testing and existing client feedback.

The following table shows the 12 key areas that Sitemark found to be a minimum requirement in order to be considered a ‘best-in-class’ RTW solution.

The most basic requirement of a RTW check is to ensure that any documents necessary to demonstrate an employee’s RTW in the UK are sufficient and up to date. This must be done to a high enough reliability that if a mistake is made, the business responsible will be provided with a statutory excuse. In addition to the features which ensure any RTW solution runs smoothly, Sitemark considered additional aspects which set technologies apart from previous iterations of the process.

Naturally, any best-in-class solution must meet the requirements of the Home Office process. The compliance technology will account for all checks that are required in a traditional manual check. 

The uComply software walks users through the process. It includes a built-in checklist so that steps are not missed or carried out improperly. The checks can be carried out by someone with no previous experience, making them easier than manual checks that require knowledge of correct documentation and what to look for to ensure legitimacy.

The use of biometric data
In addition to physical document checks, biometric data is used in the uComply solution. This offers an additional level of security as photographs from biometric chips found in passports are checked against the images in the documents and against the candidate in person. This way, documents are not just “checked” but thoroughly authenticated. 

These chips are one of the most difficult things to replicate on fraudulent documents. If the document provided does not have biometric data which should be present, the software will flag this to the user.

Provision of a statutory excuse
A RTW solution only effectively protects employees and companies alike if the checks are sufficient to provide a statutory excuse were something to go wrong. Only if the Home Office process has been followed in detail and proof can be given that employers carried it out before the candidate began work will an excuse be provided. This software ensures the process is completed fully and records the date at which it was carried out. Proper use of this solution will ensure the criteria are met for a statutory excuse.

uComply’s software also keeps track of required updates in staff documentation, warning employers if action is needed. An example may be that a working visa is coming to an end and employers must ensure the visa has been renewed by carrying out a further check. By colour coding candidate status (green meaning right to work, amber meaning action needs to be taken, red meaning no right to work) the system simplifies the check. Organisations can simply and effectively keep track of large numbers of staff statuses.

Further uses
The benchmarking identified ‘expandability’ as a required feature. In this case, uComply software offers the opportunity for additional documents such as references and relevant certificates to be uploaded alongside a candidate’s data. All of this data is then thoroughly protected, stored in a UK-based cloud system and accessed on a need-to-know basis to protect the privacy of applicants.

While the data is inaccessible to outside sources, The Application Process Interface enables the software to be linked to an organisation’s internal systems so that data on their staff – such as references and certificates – can then be accessed easily in one place.

Concluding remarks
uComply provides a RTW technological solution but this is only one offering in a crowded market. Sitemark independently benchmarked the product to determine a standard for RTW solutions. In doing so, Sitemark produced 12 aspects of these technologies which were required in order to determine whether a RTW solution could be classified ‘best-in-class’. In addition to meeting Home Office standards in RTW checks and making the process simpler than a manual check, ‘best-in-class’ systems offer benefits beyond those of traditional checking processes.

Sitemark found that uComply’s technological solution offered all of the requirements to be a best-in-class piece, offering a much needed reliable service is turbulent times for employing from overseas. 

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