Why verifications in the UK are broken

By Chris Milligan

“Verification” is tied to many of life’s major events. Whether you’re changing jobs, buying a house, or taking out a loan, you’ll likely need to prove the status of your income and/or employment. These events are stressful enough as it is, without the metaphorical pulling of teeth that people are subjected to when providing proof using data not readily at their disposal. The existing process doesn’t work for anyone; employees are forced to jump through hoops, employers are faced with a costly administrative burden, and verifiers are left managing a sloppy situation. And yet, despite the fact that 20% of any UK company’s workforce will have these checks done every year, the process hasn’t improved. Why? Because of a convoluted blend of technical limitations, a lack of guidance from regulators, and an interdependency between all parties involved. Luckily, all those elements are taking a turn in the right direction.

To understand how to improve the process, you first need to understand how (badly) it currently works. First, after an employee consents for the check to take place, a verifier contacts an employer to request a copy of the desired data (showing someone’s employment or income). There is no standardised way in which the employee’s consent is obtained; it could in the form of an email, phone call, or water cooler chat. This highlights auditability as one of the main issues in the existing process. Once the transfer of information from employer to verifier begins, the next few issues begin to surface; speed, security, and visibility. A recent internal review found that employment verifications took, on average, over three weeks to complete. An application’s progress was also unclear, with verifiers typically sending 1.4 chasers per request. When requests finally are completed, they are often sent over email to large groups, and then downloaded to local machines, which are susceptible to security breaches.

Pre-employment verifications have been thrust into the spotlight recently, with a talent shortage driven by 200,000 EU-nationals leaving the UK when the effects of Brexit and the Pandemic struck the British economy. The need to improve and speed up the hiring process has never been more important for the UK.

Geopolitics aside, the past two years have changed our ways of working so much that 24% of UK workers plan to switch jobs in the next 3–6 months. The tide is also turning on a more centralised level too, with the UK Home Office announcing that from today, digital technologies can be used for Identity Verification to enable Right to Work checks. This change in approach is also true for criminal record checks, which are another pillar of pre-employment.

There is a clear need and opportunity to improve the process for employment verification across the UK… watch this space.

Back to blog home