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Over a third of employers ‘don’t check for illegal workers’

February 25, 2016  /   No Comments

Nick Elvin

More than a third of UK employers don’t check whether their potential staff have the “right to work” in the UK, according to a new study which claims that only 58% of organisations conduct any background screening checks on new hires.

The study, involving 175 organisations and carried out by global background screening company SterlingBackcheck, found that time and cost were cited as the main reasons why employers fail to conduct background screening.

“Employers have a duty to prevent illegal working, so it’s their responsibility to conduct document checks and ensure that they only recruit people who have permission to work in the UK,” said Clare Hart, CEO of SterlingBackcheck. “The tight labour market makes it tempting for employers to look the other way but any business that fails to carry out these checks correctly risks a £20,000 civil penalty for each illegal worker, as well as damage to their brand and reputation. That’s a high price to pay, when you consider that a right to work check is so quick and affordable.”

The study shows that rigorous employment background checks are most commonly undertaken by large organisations when recruiting executives, directors and managers. The companies least likely to screen new staff are small firms with fewer than 100 employees. Only 50% of companies screen their part-time hourly workers and just 28% of employers screen volunteers.

“Employers recognise the value of screening for senior positions but that doesn’t mean they should ignore other roles,” said Hart. “The risks can be just as high with lower-level employees. By not screening all job candidates, organisations are leaving themselves open to fraud and theft, and they’re jeopardising workplace safety and employee morale.”

The main reasons given why employers conduct pre-hire screening checks are to meet regulatory compliance (67%), to improve the quality of hires (59%), to maintain their corporate reputation (53%) and to enhance workplace safety and security (50%). Typically, organisations will use in-house resources to check for references, education credentials, employment verification and right to work. Background screening providers are more likely to be appointed to conduct criminal record checks, credit/financial history checks, directorship searches and to verify public safety records.

Sixty-six percent of employers conduct a background screening check for CV fraud. “Usually this is to guard against job applicants who have embellished their experience to make themselves appear more employable,” said Hart. “However, recruiters should also conduct these checks to protect themselves against candidates who have forged their identity or immigration status.”

The study found that 88% of UK organisations employ workers with international experience but only 45% conduct pre-hire background checks on these employees.

“With globalisation and the porous borders of the European Union, anyone can now apply for a job anywhere,” said Hart. “Global screening can be a complex and difficult process for in-house recruitment teams but that shouldn’t stop you. Employers need to protect their staff, their customers and their business by not making a bad hire.”

The study also reveals one in five companies that conduct background checks has no official screening policy. “Employers need to formalise their policies, put the right processes in place and make consistent, accurate screening a central element of their recruitment strategy,” added Hart. “Responsible screening should include everyone from the boardroom to the shop floor.”

According to the study, a quarter of those organisations that do not conduct background screening plan to start doing so this year. “Our study found that most businesses expect their workforce to grow in 2016,” said Hart. “That’s good news for the economy and it’s also reassuring to learn that a growing number of employers are now recognising the importance of screening their staff.”

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