The Post Office and digital identity verification company Yoti have become the first government-approved digital ID providers, allowing UK citizens to prove their identities with an app instead of physical documents when applying for a job or renting a property.
Legislation paving the way for employers and landlords to use certified digital identity providers to carry out checks came into force on 6 April this year.
On Monday, the Post Office and its partner Yoti received the certification to conduct digital ID verification for Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks, the right to work in the UK and the right to rent.
UK citizens can now scan a copy of their ID documents in either Yoti’s or the Post Office’s free smartphone app.
Both apps use facial biometrics to verify that the person matches the ID. Once verified, it creates a digital ID stored on the device that can be shared upon request.
The move is aimed at modernising identity-checking processes, which typically require people to make physical copies of their passport or driving licence.
The Recruitment and Employment Confederation estimates that its member recruitment businesses conduct around 300,000 right to work checks each week.
“Under right to work legislation, the maximum fine for hiring illegal workers is £20,000 per worker, which would have a dramatic effect on a business. Ensuring employees are legally permitted to work is essential,” said John Abbott, chief commercial officer at Yoti.
Elinor Hull, Post Office identity services director, said: “At a time when the hospitality and retail sectors in particular are struggling to recruit and get staff onto the shop floor, the ability to digitally check candidates right to work speeds up the recruitment process, is more secure and could enable them to start sooner than if the candidate has to travel and then have their documents photocopied and physically checked.”
The apps can also be used to provide proof of age for certain goods and services, both in-person and online.
Last week, the UK Cinema Association, which represents over 90% of UK cinema operators including Cineworld, Odeon, Showcase Cinemas and Vue, struck an agreement for selected sites to accept digital IDs via the Yoti app or the Post Office’s EasyID app.
Digital ID push
Yoti and the Post Office are currently the only digital ID providers to be certified by the government. While the Home Office recommends that employers and landlords use a certified identity service provider (IDSP), it is not mandatory.
However, it is compulsory to use a certified IDSP when conducting a DBS check.
The UK is not alone in embracing digital IDs, with the EU last year unveiling plans for a digital version of an identity card that is accepted across European borders. Some countries, such as Estonia, have gone further and issue digital IDs at birth for use in everything from voting to setting up a business.
Some privacy experts have questioned whether it is necessary to legislate for digital IDs at all, arguing that it is artificially creating a market for providers. Others have warned that people who do not use digital IDs may be excluded – although the government has said employers and landlords will still have to accept physical ID documents too.
London-based Yoti’s digital verification software is also used by the Jersey Government, Scottish Improvement Service, The NHS, Virgin Atlantic and NSPCC.
Founded in 2014, Yoti has been bootstrapped until it recently looked to raise £8m-£10m to expand the company internationally.