For the millions of foreign nationals living and working in the UK – including the 3.5 million EU, EEA and Swiss citizens to whom new rules apply – demonstrating immigration status is the key to applying for a job, renting a home, and accessing a UK bank account and other financial services.
The simplest way to demonstrate immigration status is using a UK government share code: an online generated alpha-numerical code that can be shared with employers, recruiters, and landlords as proof of right to work and right to rent.
But confusion and lack of understanding around share codes is creating friction in the process. Businesses are losing out on time, money, and great candidates as a result.
How do share codes work?
For HR, right to work checks are part and parcel of the job – especially for those industries that rely on overseas labour, such as agriculture, manufacturing and healthcare.
The share code system is a relatively new initiative, introduced by the government in 2019. It should, in theory, speed up the process of verifying a person’s right to work in the UK – great for busy people professionals and eager candidates, and particularly crucial given the current backdrop of more than one million job vacancies.
Any non-UK national living in the UK is eligible to access a share code, although rules differ slightly for those with passport vignettes. To view and prove their immigration status online using a share code, candidates must log into gov.uk, with their ID they used for their visa application and a six-digit code that will be sent to their mobile phone.
Once logged in, a candidate will be able to view their immigration status, and given the option to ‘prove their status’. Following this link will then give the candidate the opportunity to generate a share code – they must select whether they require it for their landlord, employer, or another purpose.
Selecting ‘create share code’ will generate a nine-digit, alphanumeric code on screen, which candidates can then give to HR or to a recruiter, alongside their date of birth, in order for right-to-work checks to be completed.
For the HR team dealing with the check, they simply need to input this information into gov.uk in order to view the individual’s immigration status. In a bid to prevent fraudulent activity, the code is valid for 30 days, after which the candidate will need to generate a new share code.
A simple process poorly understood
The share code process should be straightforward and painless, but simply making a process digital isn’t enough to truly streamline it – users of the system need to be able to confidently utilise and understand it.
We work closely with a number of professionals in the recruitment industry, and hear regularly that teams are frustrated by a lack of knowledge around share codes. It seems that neither HR, recruiters, nor their candidates feel confident using them – and that recruiters don’t feel qualified to guide their candidates through the process either.
Many candidates struggle to complete the online process of generating a share code – and it’s easy to understand why. Several aspects of the process described above would likely require a confident English speaker, and navigating the Home Office website is made more complicated by the fact that a whole host of slightly differing phrases are used to describe the same thing – ‘view and prove your status’, ‘demonstrate right to work’, and ‘get a share code’.
Share codes are also beset by a broader lack of awareness, which some organisations are trying to tackle. Deliveroo dedicates an entire page of its website to explaining the share code process for new riders, while a how-to guide on share codes is the most watched YouTube video from the3million – a grassroots organisation that works to protect the rights of EU citizens in the UK.
How HR teams can help
With penalties for employers failing to make proper checks reaching up to £20,000, HR and recruiters need to be hot on right-to-work checks using the share code system. Investing time and energy into ensuring staff fully understand the process will ultimately save businesses money in the long run – and ditch the friction that’s slowing everybody down.
It’s important to guide candidates through the process too, so developing accessible, easy-to-understand resources that can be shared with new hires would also be a really valuable tool.
HR is perfectly placed to lead the charge on share codes, and ultimately, it’s not just about reclaiming back the business hours once spent on lengthy checks; at the heart of the system is ensuring that the hopefuls who come to this country to live and work get up and running quickly – and fully enjoy the opportunities that the UK has to offer.
Matt Oldham is co-founder of Unizest