Background Screening and the Changing Face of a Modern Workforce
This article discusses background screening and the modern workforce, in particular, screening non-employee workers, such as contractors, temporary workers, and interns.
The world of work is changing, and so too is the face of the modern workforce. “Temporary”, “contingent”, or “contract”, are just a few of the terms commonly used to represent workers who provide services to a business but are not permanent employees. This extended workforce has been relied upon more heavily in recent years by businesses of varying sizes and across many sectors, delivering flexibility and specialised skills in a more cost-effective way. Not only this, but it also often enables businesses to fill staffing vacancies more easily.
An extended workforce has become a vital component for many of today’s leading businesses. They understand the competitive advantage that contingent workers can provide, most notably, a substantial reduction in unnecessary labour costs. For example, it may be better to hire temporary workers to cover a busy period, rather than hiring permanent staff when there is not a permanent need. This could be the reason that freelance workers have become the fastest growing division of workers in recent years.
The popularity of flexible working hasn’t necessarily been reflected in the background screening practices of many businesses. HireRight’s EMEA 2019 Benchmark Report found that just over half (58%) of businesses in the region screen independent contractors, and only 68% screen temporary or contingent workers. These figures highlight that the HR and screening processes established for businesses’ permanent employee base aren’t always applied to their entire workforce. This is concerning, given that many of today’s extended workforce have the same access to facilities, sensitive documents, and computer systems that permanent staff have.
In addition, while “temp” work has traditionally been associated with more administrative roles, we’re seeing a shift in temporary working styles in a broad range of roles. This includes positions across different levels of a business, such as managerial roles. An increasing number of contingent workers are performing critical managerial tasks, with access to sensitive information that if leaked, could cause untold damage to a business's reputation. However, with businesses less likely to have background screening practices in place for these workers, they are often opening themselves up to unnecessary risk and disruption.
Another consideration is where the responsibility for screening temporary employees rests. Many employers think they can avoid the threat of litigation for negligent hiring by using workers who are screened elsewhere, for example, by a temp agency. Crucially, it doesn’t matter who is responsible for the acts of contingent workers – it is usually the employer that will have to pay the price.
Screening your extended workforce doesn’t just mitigate the associated risks posed by contingent workers. It can also provide several other benefits to your business. For those with an established screening programme, broadening this to include temporary workers can offer greater consistency and consolidate programme management to a single solution. This could result in greater efficiency through a more aligned HR process.
Surprisingly, many employers overlook due diligence and risk management procedures during the recruitment process. Regardless of whether a new recruit is permanent or temporary, it’s imperative that an appropriate level of due diligence is applied when it comes to pre-employment verifications, so that businesses can protect themselves from potentially preventable reputational damage.
The huge shift in the nature of employment in recent years has benefitted both employees and businesses in terms of more flexible working arrangements. While there are many benefits, the associated risks posed by an evolving extended workforce means that businesses simply can’t afford to leave unnecessary gaps in their screening programmes.
 Morgan Stanley, “The gig economy goes global,” June 4, 2018
Release Date: November 12, 2019
HireRight is a leading provider of on-demand employment background checks, drug and health screening, and electronic Form I-9 and E-Verify solutions that help employers automate, manage and control background screening and related programs.