Fighting fraud in right to work

As competition for talent heats up, SMEs need to be vigilant that the candidates they attract are eligible to work in the UK.

Fighting fraud in right to work

As competition for talent heats up, SMEs need to be vigilant that the candidates they attract are eligible to work in the UK. Tony Machin, CEO of TrustID describes how digital RtW checks are a major step forward in the fight against fraud.  

In the fast-paced world of start-ups and developing businesses, accessing the best talent is a game-changer, and competition can be fierce. SMEs may have an advantage over established, traditional employers when it comes to attracting the best candidates, often having greater autonomy to develop innovative packages and exciting work environments that redefine the employee experience. 

Once you have identified and interviewed the ideal candidate, it is still important to bear in mind the essential role of compliance. Are they who they say they are, and do they have the right to work in the UK? 

Right to Work (RtW) checks have been a statutory requirement in the UK since 2014. Businesses of all sizes need to be vigilant when making checks. The great news for fast-moving businesses, who want to secure the best candidates and avoid losing out in a competitive field, is that the technology to support digital checks has become more accessible and available to all.  

A digital ID check means you can verify a candidate’s identity remotely and within minutes of them submitting their evidence. However, even with digital checks, fraudsters will still try to gain employment unlawfully. 

Current RtW guidance includes two types of ‘digital’ checks. The Digital Scheme is a digital check for holders of in-date UK and Irish passports, and digital eVisa checks use Home Office issued ‘Sharecodes’ to prove eligibility for non-UK nationals. Even with digital checks, fraudsters will still try to gain employment unlawfully and both digital routes are potentially subject to fraud but in different ways. 

Under the Digital Scheme, fraudsters may present a faked passport or ID card, whereas eVisa fraud usually involves an imposter using a genuine sharecode that belongs to someone else. There is a third potential area for fraud that involves physical ID checks, where fraudulent applicants don’t undergo a digital check and present physical evidence of their right to work eligibility instead. Clearly their hope is that staff will not be trained to spot fake documentation in the same way digital checks can.

In a recent survey of active employers 42% of respondents thought it very or quite likely that they would come across candidates without the right to work in the UK, and 44% thought it likely that a candidate could present a fake proof of identity for a RtW check. A quarter of respondents reported they did not feel confident that they would be able to identify a fraudulent document, which means that around 75% felt confident that they would be able to. 

Evidence from RtW checks performed by TrustID customers points to this confidence being misplaced as the reality behind identifying a faked document is more complex than most employers are prepared for. 

The statistics show that the number of fake passports being identified each year is rising. In 2022, they made up 45% of the total of all fake documents, up 6% on last year’s figure. Over half (55%) were British passports, with Irish documents coming a close second. Trends in the types of fraud committed have changed over the past few years as some previously accepted forms of ID are no longer eligible under new RtW guidance. Which is why it is so important for employers of all sizes to keep on top of legislation to ensure compliance.

There is scope for fraud across all scenarios, but the risk is reduced when digital checks are performed by a certified Identity Service Provider (IDSP). These companies can provide expert guidance to help you ensure that your applicant is presenting genuine identity document which are sufficient to prove their eligibility to work. Identity validation services can also include liveness and face matching technology, which analyses a selfie photo against the image of your applicant to ensure your applicant matches the person presenting the proof of Right to Work.

Recruiting the dream team can make or break any business. Digital ID checks help avoid the risk of finding ‘the one’ and then discovering that they aren’t who they seem to be. 

  1. UK Right to Work checks: challenges and attitudes in 2023. TrustID.
Tony Machin
Tony Machin

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