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New Employer and Landlord Digital ID Checks – A Good IDea?

From 6 April 2022, employers and landlords in England will be able to use Identification Document Validation Technology (let’s call it ID tech) through currently unspecified, certified Identification Service Providers (let’s call them ‘tech companies’) to carry out digital identity checks on British and Irish citizens who hold a valid, current passport.

This means that prospective employees and tenants will now be able to have their ID checks carried out using technology authorised by the Home Office, as opposed to having documents being physically examined by employers and landlords.

New Home Office guidance aims to start the process for a new integrated system for Right to Work checks, Right to Rent checks and Disclosure and Barring Service checks. Whilst this is a welcome development, the proposals have a long way to go to give employers and landlords certainty that they are following the Rules correctly.

Is it worth investing the time and money in this now? I say not yet and for 5 good reasons:

1. Currently there are no certified IDVT providers 

There are currently no certified providers of this ID tech authorised by the Home Office. These are expected to be announced in ‘spring 2022’. Employers and Landlords will need time to consider the cost to benefit ratio and train staff in advance of any new system going live.

2. Cost unknown

Employers and Landlords are receiving emails from the Home Office telling them to prepare for the new system, but the list of authorised providers of this technology has not been released. Unofficial sources suggest the cost of the ID tech could be from £2 to £70 per check undertaken by a tech company.

Employers and Landlords cannot get quotes for the technology or determine whether the new system will be more effective than their current processes.  My view is that this technology will only be cost effective for larger organisations with a large turnover of staff, at least at the outset.

3. Statutory excuse

Employers and landlords who engage a tech company will still be responsible for each Right to Work or Right to Rent check performed.  Nevertheless, employers will be able to depend on an identity verified by a certified tech company to obtain a statutory excuse against a civil penalty for illegal working or illegal renting, provided they have complied with all of the requirements under the Right to Work and Right to Rent check schemes.

4. Tech company certification requirements

Certified tech companies will need to undertake an annual surveillance audit and a biennial recertification to remain on the list of certified tech companies. It appears that responsibility to check if the tech company remains certified will lie with employers and landlords and not the tech companies.  Given the high risk to companies getting it wrong, companies need assurances that they can rely on the third-party providers without the worry that a tech companies certification will be removed without them knowing or additional work every year to check they are still certified.

5. Data Protection

Every time an organisation sends data outside their business it changes the risk profile from a Data Protection point of view. If organisations are considering using the new ID tech, organisations should be mindful to consider GDPR. Questions to ask when looking at tech companies offering ID tech are:

Will the data be kept in the UK or be held abroad? There are obvious concerns around malicious actors but also Government departments of other countries may gain access to this data.

Have you assessed the supply chain, and will the data be transferred to a sub-contractor to process?

Think about the proposed contract with the service provider and if there is a fair allocation of risk and liability. The cheaper options may limit liability thereby reducing the actual benefit of using the software.

There is a big question mark over how employers will ensure that the data of prospective employees will be securely managed under the system.  

As with many other digital identity checks, prospective employers, landlords and tech companies offering ID tech will need to ensure that the public are using safe and secure ways in establishing their identity, given the risk of fraud and security concerns. 

Further use of digital technology to reduce cost and risk is certainly welcome. The use of tech companies is a step in the right direction in streamlining right to work and right to rent checks and lowering the risk of getting it wrong. There is still some way to go before the proposed new system becomes the norm.

If you have any questions in relation to Right to Work or Right to Rent, please contact Paul McCarthy

Employers are being told to prepare for a new online checking system if they want to continue to carry out right-to-work checks virtually for UK and Irish nationals from April 6.

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