BPSS (Baseline Personal Security Standard) is the required level of screening for anyone who has access to government assets in the course of their work. This includes members of the armed forces, civil servants, temporary staff and government contractors.
Outsourcing of Government services has increased dramatically over the last twenty years. Therefore a growing number of private sector companies have been eager to secure these potentially lucrative contracts. As a result ever more individuals have access to potentially sensitive information.
BPSS ensures only people with right to work in the UK and the character to handle privileged information are able to undertake Government work.
What is BPSS?
BPSS is a series of pre-employment checks your company must undertake before an employee can work on government projects.
The BPSS consists of four elements: right to work, identity, criminal records and employment history. You’ll often see this referred to with the acronym RICE. In addition to the RICE requirements, applicants for BPSS are required to disclose any period of 6 months or more spent outside the UK in the last three years.
Right to Work
This is a check of the employee’s nationality and immigration status. This part of the check fits into the wider strategy reducing available opportunities illegal workers.
Identity documents are checked to verify the person is who they say they are. This is a critical step as without identity verification, the accuracy of higher levels of security checks cannot be assured.
Criminal Record Check
As BPSS is a baseline level of screening, the criminal records check is the least intrusive. The check only covers unspent convictions only. Whether a conviction or caution is considered ‘spent’ depends on the sentence and the age of the offender when the crime was committed.
Employment History Check
Honesty and integrity are vital character traits for individuals who have access to confidential government information or assets. The employment history check covers the previous three years’ employment or other activity. Checking employment history gives assurances that the candidate’s CV and interview are an accurate reflection of their career to date.
Why does BPSS matter?
BPSS sets a uniform screening standard that applies to everyone who has access to information of national importance.
Insider threats can cause untold damage to your business and reputation. It’s likely that you take action to protect yourself against them. Therefore it makes sense that a process is in place to protect assets that affect national security.
BPSS is used in roles where individuals have access to SECRET assets. They may also be working in areas where they could overhear TOP SECRET information. The consequences of a data breach or theft of this information could be devastating. Therefore proper screening of these individuals is essential.
The BPSS gives an overview of the candidates past activity and identity. Having access to this information safeguards sensitive information from individuals who don’t have the honesty or integrity to handle it appropriately.
Do I need to BPSS screen all of my employees?
The BPSS is mandatory suite of pre-employment checks. Rigorous application of the BPSS protects you and your business by making sure that only the right people are employed to work on sensitive projects.
The official government guidance clearly states that these checks must be applied as a minimum. Whilst it does make allowances for situations where completing every check for every employee isn’t possible (e.g. large numbers of short term contractors), these situations must be thoroughly risk managed and documented.
Ultimately, if you want to safeguard your business and your client completing the full series of checks on every employee is essential.
What about contractors?
Historically, organisations were not always screening their contractors in the same manner as their full-time staff. When you think about it, this attitude doesn’t really make a lot of sense. Contractors and agency workers are brought in to fill gaps in the permanent workforce. As a result, they have access to the same information and assets.
Completing the full suite of BPSS checks can be time consuming, especially you’re a smaller company. Gathering and collating the information takes large amounts of HR time that is in high demand throughout the business. Therefore, a high turnover of contract or agency staff can easily overwhelm your HR function.
The guidance does offer some suggestions as to what to do with contractors. Specifically, it mentions ensuring contractors are supervised and accompanied at all times. However, this solution is expensive and impractical due to the strain it would place on the workforce. Despite the disruption to the workplace, it is the only option in situations where the potential for a contractor to cause harm is high and a BPSS screening system is not in place.
Because of this demand many organisations are choosing to partner with a dedicated screening services provider. Using a trusted provider frees up your busy teams and ensures the checks are completed swiftly and to a high standard.
The BPSS Verification Process
The exact process will vary from organisation to organisation however all four elements of RICE must be satisfied to pass BPSS.
Verification of Identity
Identity verification must be completed prior to start date. It can be verified physically via approved documentation or a commercial identity verification process.
When checking physical documentation there is a real risk of false identity documents being missed. If you’re relying on busy line managers or a small HR function to flag up false ID, the risk is even higher. The days of easy to spot, dodgy fake IDs are behind us. False ID documents have never been more sophisticated and without proper training spotting them is hard.
If false ID isn’t flagged up, the rest of the verification process may be pointless. A criminal record check is only as good as the name and identity provided, after all.
Nationality and Immigration Status
The penalties for employing illegal workers are significant. Should you be found to be employing an illegal worker you could be looking at an unlimited fine and up to five years imprisonment.
The threshold for guilt is also relatively low; having ‘reasonable cause to believe’ someone does not have the right to work in the UK is sufficient for the Crown Prosecution Service to secure a conviction.
Therefore, it’s in your interest to check all of your employee’s right to work in the UK, even those who won’t be handling sensitive information.
In the context of a BPSS check, identifying nationality is also important to protect national security. Most roles in the civil service are open to citizens of the European Economic Area, Switzerland and Turkey but some roles are reserved for UK nationals only. So if your business is involved or hoping to become involved in certain sensitive projects, you’ll need to determine the nationality of your employees and contractors.
3 Years’ Employment History
Once identity and nationality are established you can move on to an employment history check. It’s a sad fact that many people don’t always tell the truth on their CV. This might be to conceal gaps in employment due to dismissal or to exaggerate previous responsibilities.
Checking employment history serves as a check on a potential employee’s character and identity. An employment history check can uncover a range of issues that might affect their suitability to be employed in a role requiring BPSS. Anything from poor behaviour and CV fraud to employment under another identity can be discovered through this process.
There are pitfalls to this process. People change jobs now more than they ever have done before. As a result it’s not uncommon to have to reference multiple roles with different organisations. Referencing is a time consuming process. It often requires multiple contacts with previous employers or in the case of self-employed individuals, accountants, solicitors or clients.
Not only that, you need to ensure the references provided are not fraudulent. It’s not difficult for a candidate or new employee to provide a fake telephone number. This makes an already time consuming process even more complex and fraught with risk. Despite the complexity of the process it’s not optional under BPSS and it’s in your interest to get it right first time, every time.
Verification of Unspent Criminal Convictions
The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (1974) put into place an allowance for employers to ask individuals for details of their unspent convictions.
This legislation protects you as an employer by preventing individuals with recent criminal history entering into your business. It also protects candidates with spent convictions by wiping the slate clean and allowing them to compete for jobs unhindered by their past.
The Disclosure and Barring Service facilitates criminal records checks in England and Wales. Different services cover Scotland and Northern Ireland. A ‘basic’ disclosure is required to pass BPSS. You can pay for this yourself or ask the candidate to bear the cost. We include a criminal records check as part of our BPSS package.
How do I implement BPSS checks in my business?
You could do it all yourself. However, it’s a complex and time intensive process. If you’re worried there’s not the time to chase down references or the expertise to spot a fake ID from the real thing we can help. We can rapidly provide BPSS compliant screening checks. No minimum orders, no confusing contracts. We even have a bulk upload feature if you need to screen a large number of individuals. We’re not going to sting you with hidden charges either (BPSS is £89.50 per candidate) and you’ll only ever pay for the checks you need.
Click here to get started or if you want to learn more about how we do what we do call one of our team on 01243 767868