Comprehensive background checks are required on anyone whose work brings them into contact with the UK government’s infrastructure, assets, data or information systems. This obviously includes all government employees but also covers employees of any public or private sector organisation undertaking work on behalf of the government. Every such individual is expected to be vetted in line with the Baseline Personnel Security Standard (BPSS)
, confirming their identity and right to work in the UK and providing assurance as to their trustworthiness, integrity and reliability. Failing to screen employees to this standard may preclude an organisation from working on a government contract.
There is an occasional misconception that being screened in line with BPSS means that an individual has been given official government security clearance. That’s not the case. BPSS is merely the mandatory first step towards gaining security clearance via the United Kingdom Security Vetting (UKSV)
There are four components within a BPSS check. Easily remembered by the acronym RICE,
this involves checking a candidate’s right to work, identity, criminal record and employment history. The identity check component cannot be undertaken remotely. An employer (or their agent) will need to meet a candidate in person and see the original copies of their identification documents in order for the candidate to be compliant.
Three years is the standard timeframe against which these checks are run. If during those three years, a candidate has gaps in their employment history or has spent over six months abroad, a
character reference will be required to provide a reasonable explanation. The exception here is for candidates who are transferring to a new role internally or where BPSS is being carried out ahead of national security vetting. In these cases, only the past year of employment history or other activity need be checked.
BPSS checks represent a growth area within the screening
industry. A growing number of organisations now realise the value of having BPSS in place. Some will be looking to secure government work. They know that having already proactively run their BPSS checks will allow them to start work immediately. Others pursue BPSS merely because it represents an effective, reliable and widely understood screening standard. Organisations commissioning a BPSS check should not be scared of enhancing elements of the check. Watchlist checks, for example, are becoming an increasingly common addition. These involve checking to see whether a candidate’s name appears on any of the hundreds of publicly available watchlists worldwide, relating to anything from terrorism and fraud through to being a barred or politically exposed person.
Proper education and accreditation checks are advisable as well, particularly for roles that require a certain qualification or license. The danger to be alert to here relates to meaningless qualifications issued by fake academic institutions otherwise known as a ‘diploma mill
’. In such cases, it pays to look further than the candidate’s (seemingly genuine) certificates. And finally, don’t forget the international element of all this. While a character reference will be needed to explain what candidates were doing when spending significant amounts of time abroad, checks equivalent to the UK components of BPSS will also still need to be performed wherever the candidate resided.
Checks that employers may want to consider running in this sector
Right to Work: We’ll ensure that a candidate’s documentation meets the current Home Office requirements. We can also repeat checks as and when needed for individuals who have a limited entitlement to remain in the UK.
Identity checks: To prevent employers falling victim to identity fraud, we can undertake electronic verification checks on identity documents provided by a candidate. Alternatively, we can provide online identity checks, using biographical data.
Criminal record checks: We’ll undertake the appropriate level of UK criminal record checks, subject to strict eligibility guidelines. We’re also able to obtain overseas criminal records for candidates with an international background.
Employment history (and gap analysis): We can verify a candidate’s work history and references for the past three years, including checks on the existence and authenticity of all listed employers. Using our CV comparison service, we can also check for any discrepancies between the CV used to secure an interview and the subsequent findings of the full background check. Our gap analysis check will secure explanation of any gaps in a candidate’s activity history of more than a month when they were neither employed or in full-time education.
Professional and academic qualifications: Where applicable, we can check the validity of someone’s professional accreditations or registrations while also checking that their academic qualifications are genuine. For all professional and academic qualifications, we’ll always check at source with the awarding body.
International fraud and sanctions watchlists: We’ll check to see whether a candidate’s name appears on any of the hundreds of publicly available watchlists worldwide, relating to anything from terrorism and fraud through to being a barred or politically exposed person.
Credit checks: We’ll establish a candidate’s identity, address history and financial status via credit referencing agency records. The search will reveal details of financial probity and information including County Court Judgements, bankruptcies and voluntary arrangements within the last six years. This search will be recorded on the candidate’s file but will not be visible to other parties and will not affect the candidate’s credit score.
Social media checks: An increasingly popular – and relevant – check for employers keen to understand whether someone’s social media activity could damage their brand, reputation or client relationships. As well as highlighting illegal activity and undesirable characteristics, such checks can also play a part in authenticating a candidate’s employment history.
Driving licence checks: We’ll check that the candidate does indeed have a valid driving licence. We’ll also check for any endorsements or disqualifications currently on their licence.