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BPSS checks evolved: From the public sector to a best practice beyond

ScreeningBlog • May 24, 2024 3:30:42 PM • Written by: Mark Ramsey

In our recent webinar, our Giant screening experts, Kerry Redmond and Bunmi Fayomi, were joined by our trusted partners at Konfir and their Head of Product, Tom McAuliffe, as they explored and provided their expert perspectives on the evolution of the Baseline Personnel Security Standard (BPSS). We've covered some of these key discussion points in our video above, or feel free to read on to our blog.

In this blog, we’ll cover the key insights and talking points from this session – giving practical advice and considerations to improve your screening programme and minimise risks. This covers:

  • The growing significance of the Baseline Personnel Security Standard
  • Giant’s innovative developments, which have turned a process that once took weeks into one that can be completed within just 24 hours
  • The prevalent challenges that BPSS aims to combat

If you missed our latest webinar session, which was well attended, you can catch up on demand by accessing the full recording. We’ve also prepared an essential guide for employers on BPSS that you can download.

The BPSS Basics

BPSS was set out by the UK government as part of the UK’s National Security Vetting process, providing a framework to identify whether individuals working within the UK have the honesty, integrity, and values needed for government work.

This is especially important for high-profile public sector projects, such as HS2, but this standard is prevalent across the defence space, healthcare, and any project within the public services or public sector. As the baseline in the name suggests, BPSS underpins more substantial levels of security clearance such as CTC/Level 1B, SC, and DV. It’s worth mentioning that approximately 10% of the UK hold an SC clearance and 5% hold a DV clearance, but anyone holding those higher levels of vetting would, of course, have a BPSS. If you’d like to learn more about the essentials of BPSS, we also covered this in another recent blog.

The Risks

Should an organisation not have a robust screening process in place such as BPSS, there are several potential risks a business can be exposed to, and it’s important employers are aware of these. Some include:

  • Identity fraud: 1.9 million British consumers acknowledging that their identity was stolen to open financial accounts in 2023.
  • Illegal working: Employers risk potential fines of up to £60,000 for each illegal worker employed if the correct right to work checks are not carried out.
  • General deception: 64% of applicants openly admit to lying on their CV.

And that’s without considering the reputational and monetary risks to the business.

The Key Components of BPSS

In the sections to come, we break down the key components of BPSS. You may be familiar with aspects of this in some shape or form, and as you’ll come to learn, each aspect of BPSS with Giant has been developed and evolved to streamline the overall BPSS process:

Right to Work Check & Identity Verification

These two components are coupled together. You may have been following developments in recent years around identity service providers (IDSPs) and the digital identity frameworks. This has enabled us to utilise biometric face-matching technology that links a selfie image to a live person and then matches the document holder. When it comes to the right to work check, our solution guides the candidate through one seamless and inclusive journey, regardless of nationality or whether they have a current passport – all of which is compliant with Home Office standards. In the past, the Right to Work process was typically time-consuming and laborious – but not anymore.

Criminal Record Check

Turnaround times for this specific component have accelerated greatly due to direct integrations, resulting in criminal record checks delivered in as little as 24 hours. At Giant, we work directly with the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), Disclosure Scotland, and Access Northern Ireland to automate the process for fast, industry-leading results. Even when a candidate has lived outside of the UK, we work with a wealth of relevant authorities worldwide for global criminal record checks, ensuring no stone is left unturned.

Employment Verifications

Through our longstanding partnership with Konfir, combined with Giant's existing capabilities, we’ve developed and enhanced our BPSS process. The instant employment verification component of this, in the context of BPSS, plays a key role in the evolution. By verifying employment and gaps, and unemployment over a three-year period as per the requirements.

Our instant employment verification service, powered by Konfir, accesses regulated, direct-to-source, and recognised connections with HMRC, open banking, and payroll data. With the user’s permission, this can obtain the employer's name and workplace, the start and end dates of jobs, and job titles. This information is returned with a click of a button, accelerating a process that once took weeks into a matter of seconds. This also completely eliminates the risk of fraud, as the information is captured directly from the authoritative source.

This ensures accurate and faster turnaround times to verify employment, and the process is consent-driven, involving minimal candidate involvement, which is well received and used by candidates.

Over the past two years, we've been on a journey with Konfir, initially testing their solution on a small segment of our client base. Due to its success, it was rolled out and made available to all organisations. This process has not only streamlined and accelerated the employment verification process but also BPSS more generally.

We often get asked about references and how the instant employment verification aspect plays into this. Next we’ll aim to clarify this.

HMG guidance on BPSS determines an organisation must make meaningful attempts to obtain references from the source. At Giant, we make three meaningful chases to the reference source before we class this as an unobtainable reference. However, we jump-start this process with our instant employment verification service data while the three chases are being attempted in the background every 48 hours, ensuring all bases are covered.

The BPSS Evolution

In sectors such as the defence space, the BPSS process is often rigorous as it’s likely those that obtain a BPSS clearance will transition to a higher level of vetting. In our webinar session, Bunmi highlighted a number of clients in this domain that, prior to partnering with Giant, had a large number of cases that exceeded the HMG guidance of 10-15 days.

Since partnering with us, their BPSS turnaround times have drastically reduced, with 73% completed within 5 working days and 20% within 1 working day. While speed was a significant result of this evolution, it’s worth mentioning that the feedback from their candidates was also incredibly positive, as they are guided through one digital, unified, and seamless experience, rather than a fragmented process with multiple journeys.

A Best Practice Approach

Where an organisation may not have a screening programme in place or a specific framework, or where they’re not mandated to do so, BPSS is a great starting point as a best practice. Its robust and comprehensive nature allows it to be adopted easily, and components of which can be rescreened and refreshed at the company's discretion. BPSS has become the gold standard for screening, with a huge 85% of our clients adopting this approach.

The standard can also be applied as best practice globally for organisations with international reach. Many of the components within BPSS can be replicated for other countries and jurisdictions to produce a very similar screening experience across the globe – giving a well-rounded and consistent onboarding experience for candidates.

Is it time your organisation thought about a robust screening standard like BPSS?

Mark Ramsey