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Avoiding a fly in the ointment

Posted on 07/01/2016 by Hoa Ngo in Category Managed Services

Temporary worker compliance is a growing burden but an essential task.

The number of industries that are increasingly reliant on large temporary workforces is significant, from local government, social care and health, to leisure, retail and hospitality. Research by the TUC showed the number of UK temporary staff rose by 89,000 in the two years to the end of 2012, to 1.6 million. Inevitably the number has continued to grow since. But do your temporary staff receive the same kind of checks and balances that are given to permanent workers or do they leave you open to potentially damaging non-compliance issues?

Heading up compliance for a labour supply management specialist I regularly see situations where the recruitment process for temporary staff doesn’t follow the rules. Thankfully, the issues are usually minor ones, nonetheless there are also major non-compliance occurrences which would have resulted in serious consequences.

We routinely conduct agency compliance audits on behalf of our customers and it’s fair to say that almost every audit throws up an issue of some sort. The minor ones include things like recruitment agencies being late responding to the audit or in some cases not providing key information or evidence about workers, such as references. More serious issues are rare but include counterfeit right to work documents and other fraud which has to be escalated and reported to the appropriate powers.

If you’re a hirer of temporary staff you need to be sure that workers or the recruiters supplying them are not exposing your organisation to unacceptable risk that could impact you or damage customer relationships. The implications of a fraudulent doctor or social care worker getting into your organisation don’t need spelling out.

There are various key areas to consider, and some recent changes which are complicating the compliance landscape. The basics are obviously checking the validity of key employment documents such as right to work, visas for non-UK nationals, even proof of identification.

For anyone working with children or the vulnerable a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check - formerly CRB - is essential. There can be common misconceptions over which staff require DBS, admin staff for example being a grey area. Because they’re not working directly on cases they’re often considered clear of the process. However if they are handling confidential case and patient data then they must also comply.

The move from traditional paper based disclosure certificates, which had to be repeated per agency, to the DBS Online Update Service has also caused recent issues depending on whether the client has accepted the use of the new system. If you as the client mandates this, your supply chain needs to follow.

Any sector employing temporary drivers obviously needs to check the validity of licenses, especially for rarer licence categories required for specific roles. The abolition of paper driving licenses recently has also created extra challenges as candidates can no longer use these as appropriate evidence.

In the health sector Locum doctors are expected to have a defined period of references with no gaps. If they have moved around the world working in different organisations and regions, which is often the case, it can be difficult to track these references and they can slip through the net. While in most cases this is not an issue, for such an important and high value role it is crucial that solid and sound referencing is always in place.

More generally, pitfalls can occur when government legislation changes and agencies, or indeed your own policies, might not keep up. Recent examples include eligibility to work documentation, and intermediary reporting requirements tracking levels of payment to non-PAYE workers or those using offshore umbrella companies. The Agency Worker Regulations introduced in 2011 also caused considerable change. As the hirer you also have new compliance risks on your shoulders, such as ensuring that pension auto-enrolment is being facilitated correctly for temporary staff.

Not only is the number of temporary staff entering the workplace growing, so are the requirements for compliance checks. It is crucial that the urgent need for additional heads in the business, or indeed agency worker cost savings, doesn’t get in the way of ensuring they are correctly validated. Under increasing pressure to manage compliance, procurement and HR teams may wish to consider the benefits of outsourcing their temporary labour recruitment to an organisation that can take the burden off their shoulders.