Technology is supporting businesses to achieve all manner of things faster and more efficiently. Applicant authentication is no exception. The latest technology means that businesses can verify the identity of job applicants while respecting both data privacy laws and hiring compliance regulations, says Jimmy Fong.

Security and efficiency

The changes rolled out in 2022 to the Right to Work checking system meant that employers could begin to carry out checks electronically and securely. This change is one of many that has made employers’ jobs easier while raising questions about legal and regulatory compliance regarding applicant authentication.

Compliance can be a thorny topic at the best of times, with unexpected issues arising to challenge even the most robust compliance strategy. Add new ways of doing things against a backdrop of multiple pieces of legislation, and it’s easy to see why “compliance” can become a painful topic. However, it’s one that can be broken down into manageable chunks when using the right technology.

Understanding the hiring compliance landscape

Plenty of UK companies are actively seeking to hire new employees. According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, there were 1,083,000 vacancies from February to April 2023. All those taking on new staff have to comply with a range of legal obligations, as laid out in multiple pieces of legislation. These include:

  • The Equality Act 2010
  • The Employment Rights Act 1996
  • The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006
  • The Employee Study and Training Regulations 2010
  • The Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act

While the last two on the list are aimed mainly at existing employees, they also have implications for hiring. The same is true of legislation such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Using technology to drive compliance

A key element of taking on new staff is the applicant authentication process. This means checking that potential hires are who they claim to be and that they have the right to work in the UK. Companies must carry out these Right to Work checks on every individual they wish to employ, regardless of their nationality, race, or ethnicity.

The first step is identity proofing, which is the act of authenticating an individual’s identity. Traditionally, this process has been centered around applicants showing their physical documents – birth certificates, passports, and so on. Indeed, many firms still use largely paper-based processes for applicant authentication. However, sophisticated tech processes are also now an option when it comes to confirming someone’s identity, with remote identity proofing using a three-pronged approach focusing on identity resolution, validation, and verification.

Right to Work checks can also be undertaken faster by using dedicated systems. The government, post-Brexit, issues non-UK nationals with a nine-digit alphanumeric ‘share code’ that employers can use to check a potential hire has the right to work legally in Britain. Employers can either check original documents or use an identity service provider for British and Irish systems.

Identity document validation technology (IDVT) means these processes are incredibly fast. Some service providers offer online ID verification in as little as eight seconds, with the tech confirming the authenticity of documents such as passports, driving licenses, ID cards, and biometric residence permits.

Such services help companies ensure they are not accepting fraudulent documentation. This can provide peace of mind to smaller HR teams where staff are unused to having to check identity documents. And there are many, many such teams – 99.9 percent of the UK’s business population consists of small and medium enterprises, many of which don’t hire on a regular basis.

Carrying out these identity proofing and right-to-work checks are essential in order to comply with current hiring regulations. As such, any business not currently benefitting from the use of technology to bolster their hiring compliance processes would do well to investigate just how readily available such solutions are.

The consequences of non-compliance

Companies that fail to comply with hiring legislation can face serious consequences. Failure to show that you have checked an employee’s right to work in the UK can result in a fine of up to £20,000.

Nor is the risk of a Right to Work-related fine the only issue. Companies can also face legal penalties if they refuse to employ someone based on spent convictions if they didn’t have the authority to check those convictions during a Disclosure and Barring Service check. Discriminating against applicants on the grounds of a disability can also result in prosecution.

All of this is terrible news for a company’s reputation, as well as a drain on staff time and a major distraction from core operations while the business goes through the processes that result from such infractions.

By implementing solutions for applicant authentication, businesses can maintain hiring compliance while avoiding potential legal risks. They can minimise the chance of hiring someone using stolen or forged identity documents or who does not have the right to work in the UK. And all while complying with data privacy and security requirements.

A robust approach to applicant authentication means that businesses are doing all they can to ensure they hire the right people, operate within the law, build trust with job candidates, and avoid any reputational damage associated with non-compliance fines. Plenty of solid reasons to ensure that hiring compliance is addressed as a key priority!


Jimmy Fong is the CCO of SEON and brings his in-depth experience of fraud-fighting to assist fraud teams everywhere.