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CANDIDATE COMPLIANCE – Samantha Hurley, director of operations, APSCo on getting it right for jobseekers.

It’s a given that all candidates should be both legally and practically able to do the role that a recruiter is placing them into. However, in today’s competitive job market, it’s no secret that some jobseekers can have a tendency to stretch the truth, or fail to disclose important information. In fact, according to data from Safe Staffing, up to 75 per cent of all job applications contain inaccurate information. With this in mind, effectively screening candidates is an absolutely essential – if resource heavy – element of the wider recruitment process. But how can recruitment professionals best ensure they are compliant, without unnecessarily pushing up time to hire?

At best, recruiters who fail to undertake requisite pre-employment checks risk wasting time and resources on unsuitable candidates or failing to fulfil client briefs. At worst, they could be breaking the law. And within the professional sectors our members place into, the stakes are arguably higher. Roles are more likely to involve access to financial or sensitive material, or be within sectors where safeguarding is paramount. However, all recruitment leaders should ensure that there are policies and procedures in place to ensure background checks are in line with employment legislation as part of a robust hiring process.

The code

All APSCo members adhere to a strict code of conduct to ensure that they not only understand and comply with all of the relevant provisions of the 1973 Employment Agencies Act as amended, the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003 (“the Conduct Regulations”), and the Agency Workers Regulations 2010 (“the AWR”), but also endeavour to place the candidates who best meet the client’s reasonable and lawful requirements.

Members have a duty to ensure that the contractual documentation they use to cover their dealings with both candidates and clients is in line with current statutory requirements and also pledge to have procedures in place to ensure that adequate documentation is provided, where required by law, to all relevant parties. This includes putting in place adequate procedures to ensure consistent and continual compliance with UK Visas and Immigration guidelines with regards to the right to work in the UK of all permanent and temporary candidates and employees and making sure that all relevant staff members are aware of the documents and document combinations which are acceptable as proof of right to work in the UK.

Our members promise to provide clients with up to date and accurate information, to the best of their knowledge, regarding any jobseeker introduced to a client and ensure that all personal information is held and processed securely and in line with current legislation. Our Code of Conduct also details how members must put in place adequate procedures to ensure the documentation of all stages of their recruitment processes is logged, including but not limited to: recording the time and date of CV’s sent, interviews arranged, and the outcome of offers of employment or engagement. The recruitment consultancies we work with must also be willing, on request from a client, to clarify what procedures are in place to verify the candidate’s identity, experience and qualifications.

Do you ‘skills test’ your candidates?

If yes, how is this carried out?

Attention to detail

While, in the inevitable rush to get a seemingly perfect candidate placed, it can be easy to overlook small details, due diligence at the earliest stages of the recruitment process is crucial. Recruitment leaders should put in place solid procedures to reduce risk which cover every relevant check as part of the pre-employment screening process. Effective background screening ultimately comes down to checking and verifying your candidate is who they say they are, and that they are adequately qualified and legally able to fulfil the role you are placing them in.    

Depending on role requirements, these checks may include, but are not limited to: criminal record and DBS screening, financial history and credit checks, employment and personal reference verification, academic and qualification checks, passport and VISA verification, directorship search, social media checks, driving licence check, searching global sanctions, confirming the candidate is an FSA Approved Person, medicals, Payment Card Industry Security Check, or GMC or NMC checks. This may be detailed in the client service agreement, but not always. There’s a good argument to suggest that clients expect all relevant checks to take place as a matter of course.

It is crucial that screening policies are communicated to all relevant team members. Ensuring that recruitment consultants have a reasonable understanding of basic staffing regulations and contract law is essential to the protection of your business. While no one expects recruiters to be legal experts, it’s vital to ensure that staff members are equipped with enough information so they can do their jobs effectively without making potentially costly mistakes.

In today’s global recruitment market, determining a candidate’s right to work in the UK is crucial. Official advice asks employers to obtain, check, copy and store right to work documentation. When placing contractors, it’s also vital to follow up time limited permission in am appropriate manner.

As immigration legislation talks about the ‘employer’s’ responsibilities, it could be argued that a recruitment firm placing a contractor is not legally responsible for undertaking such checks. However, APSCo’s view would be that it’s not just important from a legal aspect in protecting both the recruitment firm and their client, but also a recruiter wouldn’t want to waste their client’s time by providing CVs of people who can’t legally work in the UK – it’s just bad practice.

Documentation required to verify right to work will vary depending on candidate status. UK nationals, for example, may provide only their passport, while others with a permanent right to work in the UK may have to provide a birth certificate of a British parent in conjunction with their National Insurance number on a document from a previous employer, for example. Full details of which documents are accepted are available on the government website.

In theory, hirers should check that the documents look authentic, by confirming that photos match the contractor and the date of birth is consistent across all documents, for example. If unsure, or in certain instances, recruiters or hiring managers may need to contact the Home Office to verify a candidate’s right to work in the UK, for example, when a certificate of application is less than six months old.

In reality, however, recruiters placing contractors nationally may not always get the chance to meet face to face before a contract begins. In this instance, recruiters should find a pragmatic solution which balances the risk to the business with what is physically possible. For example, insisting on Post Office verified electronic documentation before a placement starts and then visiting the contractor on site shortly after their placement has started.

The introduction of Biometric Residence Permits for non-EEA nations has offered more certainty around right to work status, and recruiters should advise candidates to obtain their card, by submitting biometric data at a local Post Office, as soon as is realistically feasible. Security features of these permits – such as the tactile image on the back of the card which features a raised design of a rose, a daffodil, a thistle and a shamrock – mean determining status is easier than it has been in the past. Once documentation is collected and checked, recruiters should ensure that this information and other sensitive data is stored and secured separately from general data.

Keep them engaged

Effective candidate and client engagement is crucial during the verification process and honesty and transparency are paramount. Keeping clients updated on developments is key, and applicants must be made aware that you will be performing background checks when processing their application, how these will be processed, for example, if a third party will be involved, and what will happen with the resulting information. Outcomes from checks which include sensitive information, such as criminal records checks, can sometimes be sent directly to the client rather than be held on a recruitment firm’s database and DBS checks are now managed online via the update service. However, we always advise that recruitment leaders mitigate against data breaches by ensuring that data security is at the forefront of all processes.

While APSCo’s Code of Conduct covers best practice around ensuring that candidates are legal and qualified to work in the role they are being recruited for generally, companies operating in higher risk sectors
–education and social work – are audited to confirm that they are exceeding standards specific to their markets before they receive our Compliance+ accreditation.

Regardless of what sector you operate in, however, recruitment leaders should regularly review policies and practices around legal compliance to ensure that they are fit for purpose.

While the concept of checking that candidates are suitably qualified and able to work in the role that they are being recruited for may sound obvious, jobseekers can slip through the net if sufficient processes to verify information submitted by the candidate are not put in place. The high profile case a few years back of a Swedish pilot who flew passenger jets for 13 years without a licence – after training himself on a flight simulator while working nights as an engineer, and making his own flying permit – is a case in point. Best practice recruitment means hiring on facts not instinct, and the reputational risk associated with getting it wrong should not be underestimated.