Critical friends are normally employees of other universities who provide a service to the University of York by reviewing submissions being made by York staff.

They are identified and engaged locally by departments, who provide the individual with a letter of engagement.

Employment status

Some critical friends are engaged as workers who will be paid through the University payroll. Others are engaged as self-employed workers and are paid through the Payments Office. The engagement letter should, along with details of the work to be done and the rate of pay, specify the employment status of the worker.


An individual wanting to be paid on a self-employed basis needs to undergo an employment status check. The check is is carried out by Payroll and must be completed before any work begins.


If the check shows the work arrangements do not meet the criteria for self-employment, they should be treated as a worker, which means a satisfactory right to work check must be in place before any work begins.

Remote workers

A right to work check involves a University employee inspecting the worker's original documents in the presence of the individual.

The difficulty with undertaking right to work checks for critical friends is that, while the worker may be engaged by the University and paid through our payroll, they may never attend the campus or any other University location in order to deliver the work.

In these circumstances we have the option of a 'remote' right to work check. This requires:

  • the original documents of the worker to be sent to the University by a secure, trackable delivery method
  • a video call between a University employee in possession of the original documents and the worker, with the employee verifying the documents with the worker present via the video call

Once the remote right to work check has been carried out and copies taken, the documents are then returned to the worker via a secure, trackable delivery method.

Critical friends who are based overseas and who do not perform any of their duties in the UK are exempt from a right to work check.