On 17 January 2022, the UK Government updated its right to work guidance. All employers in the UK are at risk of a civil penalty for illegal working unless they carry out right to work checks before employing someone (and carry out such checks on a repeat basis for anyone who has permission to work in the UK for a fixed period of time). These checks must be carried out in accordance with the latest guidance.

The latest version of the right to work guidance can be found here.

What's new?

There are two key updates to note:

  1. It will no longer be acceptable to complete manual right to work checks for those with biometric residence permits, biometric residence cards or frontier worker permits from 6 April 2022. These checks will now need to be completed online from this date;
  2. The UK Government will introduce digital identity verification for British and Irish citizens with valid passports (or pass cards) from 6 April 2022 with details set out in the guidance.

Digital identity verification

The updated guidance has added a new Annex F which provides guidance for employers on how to use digital identity verification by using a certified identity service provider and eligibility checks for British and Irish passport holders. This will come into effect from 6 April 2022.

The steps to check a worker's identity with a service provider are expected to require employers and service providers to:

  • get evidence of the claimed identity (likely by uploading a copy of the document to the service provider);
  • check the evidence is genuine or valid;
  • check the claimed identity has existed over time;
  • check if the claimed identity is at high risk of identity fraud; then
  • check that the identity belongs to the person who’s claiming it.

Employers will still have to confirm that the image provided to the service provider is a true likeness of the prospective employee in order to complete the last step. This can be face-to-face or via a video call.

If a prospective employee does not have a current British or Irish passport (or passport card), the employer will still need to carry out a manual check of the original document as normal.

What do I need to do now?

The UK Government is currently going through the process of certifying service providers who will be able to provide these digital checking services to employers. The new checks are expected to be in effect from 6 April 2022. Further details on how the scheme will work in practice for employers will likely be given in advance of April.

Can I still carry out manual checks on a passport instead of using remote checks?

The new digital scheme is presented as an alternative to completing manual checks. Employers will still be able to complete manual checks for British and Irish citizens if they prefer.

What are the benefits?

Employers will be able to use third parties (certified identity service providers) who will make use of identification document validation technology to carry out digital identity checks on their behalf. Employers would not have to check physical documents for certain new employees. This will allow remote checks to be carried out on British and Irish citizen passport holders (who cannot use the Home Office online services currently). The Home Office believes that this will be a more secure way of carrying out checks.

The changes do not mean that employers can completely outsource the duties to complete right to work checks. Employers remain responsible for ensuring that the appropriate right to work checks are completed and the process must be followed correctly to have the statutory excuse from a civil penalty.

The guidance also requires employers to provide appropriate training and guidance to staff on the new system and the steps to be completed. 

If you need assistance on your duties to complete right to work checks or how to carry out the correct checks for an employee, please contact a member of the Brodies Employment and Immigration team.


Gregor Craig-Murphy

Senior Solicitor