Identity and documents verification checks

Background screening is all about verifying that someone is everything that they claim to be. However, before getting into the details of their qualifications or their credit worthiness, the first check should be to make sure that someone really is who they claim to be.

There are several reasons why someone may want to use a fake identity to secure employment. These typically involve masking something from their true identity which would prevent them from being employed; e.g. a criminal record, past financial difficulties or not having the legal right to work in the country. This could involve providing a wholly faked identity or merely concealing one small part of it, such as a previous address which they know would be linked to an adverse credit report, for example.

Whatever the reason, allowing such a person into your workforce poses a significant risk to your business. Sadly, with identity theft and personal data breaches becoming more commonplace and with people becoming more sophisticated in their efforts to hide aspects of their personal history that they would rather not come to light, it’s a deception that employers need to be ever more vigilant about.

An identity check verifies an individual’s identity by cross-referencing their personal information (name, address and date of birth) against a variety of sources. In the UK, this can mean checking against the Electoral Roll, phone directories, bank accounts or even the National Deceased Register. We can also liaise with the UK Passport Office to confirm an individual’s passport number, given their current name and address.

There are a number of other searches related to this for foreign nationals. For example, we can check whether their national identity card and/or passport is valid and hasn’t been lost or stolen. Alternatively, we can check against a national identity register where one exists. We can also verify the authenticity of any machine-readable foreign passport (and certain other ID cards, driving licences and visas) to make sure it’s not a forgery.

The guiding principles in all identity checks are three-fold. Firstly, there’s the need to check that an identity document is for the person we believe it to be for. The second is to validate that the document is legitimate. And the final step is to physically verify that the person in the document’s photograph is the person being checked (as we never meet the individual personally, this is something that remains the responsibility of the employer). Without all these steps operating in tandem, an individual may be able to pass off someone’s else documentation as their own or fool the employer with a sophisticated forged document.

Establishing someone’s true identity and, by extension, their nationality is a critical part of ensuring that someone has the right to work in the UK, or any country for that matter.

When establishing an individual’s right to work, it’s important that the proper procedure is followed for obtaining, verifying and copying the relevant identification documents. Interestingly, there’s no legal requirement to check whether documents are forged, although this clearly makes sense from the perspective of avoiding employing a fraudster. Using our expert knowledge of the Home Office rules, we can audit the documents provided to ensure that they do indeed prove an individual’s right to work.

Being able to prove that this procedure was followed is what grants an employer its Statutory Excuse; the defence that can be used if it subsequently transpires that they unknowingly or unwittingly employed an illegal worker. With the fines for employing an illegal worker running to as much £20,000 per worker, it’s a procedure that should be adhered to rigorously.