Fiona Dawson of Experian Background Checking explores the risks and rewards of recruiting temporary staff and offers top tips for building a reliable and flexible workforce to meet seasonal as well as ongoing business demands.
According to the latest figures from the International Confederation of Private Employment Agencies (CIETT), the UK has the highest number of temporary workers in Europe, with over 1.3 million temps working in the UK; that’s around 5% of the UK workforce.
Temporary employment is now a permanent feature of the business landscape and for many organisations, it has become integral to business strategy. Temporary workers can be quickly deployed to cope with unforeseen demand, cover sickness, holiday absence and maternity leave and provide extra support during seasonal periods like the Christmas rush or financial year end.
Clearly, temporary workers can offer a number of specific advantages to employers. However, they do come in all shapes and sizes. The good ones can help a company thrive in the difficult times or offer valuable help and support at short notice. The very best temporary workers are often highly motivated, some seizing on the opportunity to gain valuable experience and may see the role as a stepping stone to a permanent position. Others may resent the fact the role is not permanent, they might lack motivation and commitment and could be detrimental to a company’s business. And at their very worst, a temporary worker may gain employment under false pretences, which potentially could have very serious repercussions.
Be aware of the risks
Organisations often use temporary staff and contractors while largely ignoring or being unaware of the risks. While the timescales associated with recruiting temporary staff are short, this should not be an excuse for not carrying out appropriate background checks on temporary staff.
Check their legal right to work in UK
Many organisations, which have fluctuating seasonal and temporary demands, employ a significant number of migrant workers. The Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 makes it a criminal offence to employ someone who is subject to immigration control and who has no permission to work in the UK. In 2009, the UK Border Agency imposed 2,210 civil penalties on employers of illegal workers totalling £22.1m, almost double the number of civil penalties issued in 2008.
With forged identity documents often very hard to spot, the importance of electronic identity validation and appropriate background checks, should not be underestimated when it comes to temporary employees and complying with immigration legislation.
Meet duty of care obligations
The Corporate Manslaughter Act places a legal obligation on employers to ensure that the staff they employ do not pose a threat to themselves or others. In order to protect themselves from legal and financial repercussions further down the line, organisations must satisfy themselves that the temporary staff they employ have the appropriate qualifications, a full and valid employment record, no previous convictions and for roles where driving is required a clean DVLA check.
Protect against insider fraud
The possibility of hiring someone who may pose a direct criminal threat may seem rare, but the fact that the value of reported fraud in the UK has increased by 153% since 2003 reminds us how serious a threat this is to UK businesses. The latest figures from CIFAS, the UK’s fraud prevention service, show a substantial rise in the number of cases of staff fraud identified in 2009 compared to 2008. CIFAS also reports an increase in the number of cases of employees selling personal data. The implication of this finding is that more staff are being approached by organised criminals and bribed to reveal personal customer data. Indeed, it has been claimed by the police that one in ten of Glasgow’s financial call centres has been infiltrated by criminal gangs.
Clearly, organisations which hold large data repositories or deal with sensitive financial information are at greater risk from insider fraud. In these days of identity theft, criminals will pay a healthy price for personal information and the temptation for someone in financial difficulties is clear.
Don’t just check permanent positions
Temporary or contract employees are often the biggest threats when it comes to employee fraud. Generally, they have less to lose, have less loyalty to the company and can also have wide access to sensitive customer information. Fraudsters are also more likely to obtain entry to an organisation through temporary or contracting roles where background screening may be lax or often non-existent. Organisations should consider developing an employee screening policy which includes carrying out identity checks, qualification checks, adverse financial checks and criminal record checks specifically on temporary and contract staff and not just those in permanent or senior positions.
Five top tips for meeting seasonal recruitment demands and minimising exposure to risk
- Don’t rely on the recruitment agency’s screening process – organisations should also undertake internal vetting of temporary applicant
- Build a temporary talent bank – consider pre-screening a group of recurring ‘seasonal’ employees who come back during the busy periods
- Use background screening to deter timewasters and potential fraudsters – Experian’s own experience has found that it’s not uncommon for as many as 15% of applicants to drop out when made aware that a thorough background check is used in the recruitment process
- Effective workforce planning – plan well in advance for busy periods and line up a pre-screened workforce that can be called upon at short notice
- Outsource the background checking process – not only will this save time and money but will also ensure legal obligations are met