Last month, it was announced by the Office for National Statistics that the UK unemployment rate fell to a seven-year low of 5.4% from June to August. With more and more candidates finding employment, the recruitment industry is booming. According to recent figures, it hit a record turnover of £31.5 billion in 2014 and now employs 103,000 people, an increase of 7% from last year.
Since government ended licensing in 1994, the recruitment industry has been left to police and legislate itself, leaving it without a single binding standard. For an industry so crucial to the UK economy, it seems strange that the only rules of conduct are limited to members of the various trade associations. Frequently, these don’t do enough to ensure that best practice and compliance is adhered to across the industry.
The scrapping of licensing was seen as a way of wiping away the red tape, crucial to making the industry become more competitive to the benefit of the hirer and the candidate. However, in today’s climate, where candidates are entitled to move from country to country within the EU freely and without restriction, as well as an increasing number of digital pathways to recruitment, there has never been a greater need for an independent industry accreditation, to benchmark, educate, and ensure quality practice. But why should HR managers care?
Every industry is different. Each one will have restrictions and vocational qualifications required for candidates to gain entry to them. In the aerospace sector, for example, recruiters frequently train staff to the required level before they are able to work within tightly restricted airports. Additionally, staff have to be properly vetted to ensure they don’t impose a security risk.
Similarly in the education sector, schools have a safeguarding duty when hiring teachers and support staff. In a recent survey released by the National Associations of Head Teachers , it was reported that 79% of schools that had advertised vacancies had difficulties in filling the vacancy.
This has led to an increased number of schools turning to recruitment agencies to address their staff shortages. Yet, the Chief Executive of Children Family and Adult Services in Cambridgeshire has recently stated concern that safeguarding issues in recruitment are not always being followed through. These safeguarding rules are in place for the protection of the vulnerable in our society – and deserve to be strongly supported.
With no plans to reintroduce government regulation and more than 18,000 recruitment agencies in the UK, now more than ever the industry must do more to protect and enhance its reputation and alleviate concerns. To meet this I believe all hirers and candidates would welcome an independent universal accreditation that defines a quality benchmark of best practice in recruitment based on operating standards they reasonably expect, namely fairly, ethically, and compliantly. It is this belief and as a result of the conditions being right that I have been involved in creating such an accreditation.
With this accreditation, hirers can be safe in the knowledge that candidates have gone through a stringent recruitment process that puts the needs of the business before that of securing a hire or turning a profit. In fact, a point of accreditation would not only be good for the industry but it would deliver commercial value for accredited recruitment businesses and agencies over non-accredited ones.
Such an accreditation requires everyone involved within the industry to collaborate and make a statement forcing change. Of course, it is HR and procurement managers who are in the strongest position to force the issue and make a real difference to the industry and their colleagues.