A Revised Standard for Screening Individuals Working In Secure Environments
The far-reaching impact of the COVID-19 outbreak has affected virtually every business and economic sector worldwide, and depending on the global region, has hampered (on various levels) the ability to conduct proper and thorough background screening investigations. In the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates, countrywide lockdowns and business closures have driven employees to work remotely from their homes, where ongoing concerns about productivity, privacy and protecting sensitive information while working remotely has spotlighted and elevated the vital importance of pre-employment background screening and investigations.
Unfortunately, conducting such investigations in a reliable and timely manner has brought its own struggles, regardless of the global region being considered. Closure of public information sources has greatly impacted the process of accessing public records to verify previous employment, education and criminal charges. Drug screening tests have been delayed or postponed until such companies are permitted to reopen their doors for business. On the applicant side, it’s been widely reported that individuals are concerned (and rightly so) about participating in face-to-face interviews, leaving their homes to do a drug test, and ultimately, returning to a work environment that may or may not appear to be healthy, protected and safe.
Investigators themselves have hesitations about venturing into the field to complete their assignments, which in many countries, may require a high degree of boots-on-the-ground research and in-person interaction. Fortunately, the background screening industry is resilient and is steadily working around these unavoidable obstacles to ensure that workplaces are safeguarded, workers, customers and property are protected, and sensitive information doesn’t fall into rogue hands. This is particularly important in those sectors that rely heavily on vetting personnel working in secure environments who are responsible for people, property, data and critical systems. And it’s important for the mere fact that a trending increase in recruitment fraud is creating additional challenges for already over-burdened employers. Last year recruitment fraud cost £23 billion in the UK alone.
In the UK, a recent update of the BS 7858:2019 standard, “Screening of Individuals Working in a Secure Environment – Code of Practice,” (which became operational this past April) places emphasis on the risk assessment of secure environment workers and the need for tighter controls over the pre-employment screening – and periodic re-screening – of said individuals, who in their positions could potentially benefit from illicit personal gain, become compromised, or take advantage of other opportunities for creating breaches of confidentiality, trust or safety.
Written by the British Standards Institute, which is recognized as the UK’s national standards body, BS 7858:2019 lays out the scope of “obtaining personal background information to enable organizations to make an informed decision, based on risk, on employing an individual in a secure environment.” Those workers include business owners, directors, partners, silent partners and shareholders holding more than 10% of the business; managers, area managers, department managers, screening managers and staff; installers and service crew; security personnel; and office supervisors and staff with access to customer and system records.
The amended guidelines of the standard basically put the onus on the organization’s top management to demonstrate that they are focused on the aspects of the business where the most risk lies, and the particular personnel roles that are involved within those risks areas. This is particularly important because, as the standard states, the “organization retains ultimate responsibility for an outsourced screening process and is required to review the completed screening file.” Risks assessment includes examining certain roles that involve financial tasks, data security, management of goods, property risks or any number of “people risks” such as roles with direct access to vulnerable adults and children.
To that end, management is charged with ensuring that the organization has proper and adequate resources and infrastructure in place to manage the adequate vetting of high-risk personnel and that there is a firm commitment at the top level to manage and support the coordination required to execute the screening process. Finally, management is tasked with ensuring that such responsibilities are properly assigned and clearly communicated throughout the organization.
The guideline also eliminates from its original text in 2012, a requirement to produce character references as part of the screening process, a decision that was based on the supposition that such references are now deemed as potentially weak and difficult to verify. The premise behind the standard is to safeguard employers from bad or fraudulent hires, noting that the price of a bad hire has far-reaching consequences for any business, including productivity loss, decreased employee morale, risks to employee safety and increased exposure to costly negligent hiring claims and potentially devastating litigation. Cases of organizations that forego conducting due diligence on a new hire – especially a hire with high-risk exposure – often end badly for those organizations.
The revised BS 7858:2019 standard enables organizations to demonstrate a commitment to safeguarding their businesses, employees, customers and information utilizing widely accepted methods that focus on risk assessment and top-down management involvement in the company’s employment policies and practices. In establishing policies and practices around the standard, such organizations can show that they place a high value on hiring individuals who possess such integrity and can task them with responsibilities designed to keep their co-workers, customers and information safe from the negative forces that have become more prevalent in today’s ever-changing world.
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CRI Group has safeguarded businesses from any risks, providing investigations (i.e. insurance fraud), employee background screening, investigative due diligence, business intelligence, third-party risk management, forensic accounting, compliance and other professional investigative research services. In 2016, CRI Group launched Anti-Bribery Anti-Corruption (ABAC®) Center of Excellence – an independent certification body established for ISO 37001:2016 Anti-Bribery Management Systems, ISO 19600:2014 Compliance Management Systems and ISO 31000:2018 Risk Management, providing training and certification. ABAC® operates through its global network of certified ethics and compliance professionals, qualified auditors and other certified professionals. Contact ABAC® for more on ISO Certification and training.