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Brexit uncertainty has increased the need for staff screening measures in the UK.

February 14, 2019

Global risk management specialist Pinkerton is urging UK businesses to tighten up staff screening procedures in light of the commercial uncertainty surrounding Brexit.

The company, which was founded nearly 170 years ago and boasts a worldwide presence in risk and security operations, believes that Brexit uncertainty has heightened the need for employment screening measures to ensure the security, compliance, and reputation of UK businesses across all sectors. From low-paid casual labour in a retail space to high level handling of potentially sensitive information in technology or finance, the importance of establishing a right to work and building trust within a team cannot be underestimated.

Whilst workers are a company’s most important asset, that person walking through the door every day is potentially also one of the biggest risks to electronic information, physical and human security, and reputation, if not vigorously vetted prior to placement. There are more than 500 million people in the EU. Those of working age and with relevant skills are still free to travel and apply for jobs in the UK, at least until the end of March. This poses challenges for employers verifying potential employees’ movements, backgrounds, and right to work whilst demonstrating regulatory compliance and maintaining efficient processes during employee onboarding.

Rory Lamrock, Pinkerton’s United Kingdom Director, explains: “Increasingly stringent EU privacy and data security legislation, combined with advances in technology and a global workforce in an uncertain political climate, has made pre-employment screening a challenge for a lot of multinationals. They recognise the burden is on the employer to conduct risk-based screening to ensure a secure and compliant work environment, but Brexit uncertainty has made it harder for businesses with UK people and operations to plan for the future.

“Even within the UK, legislative standards on who can collect criminal records (DBS checks) varies between Scotland and England. Across EU countries, these kind of variances are magnified and the screening process has been made more complex by political and legal changes over the past year. We’re already seeing a lot of clients moving significant screening operations from Asia back into the EU to comply with GDPR, but the regulatory uncertainty connected to a no-deal Brexit, or the prospect of a completely new immigration system in the UK, has posed further challenges.”

GDPR will remain part of UK law regardless of the Brexit outcome, and companies have to ensure their technology, systems and people perform to those high standards. "We’re screening people not just to protect our client’s organisational security, compliance and brand reputation,” Lamrock says, “but also to protect the current workforce from candidates with a history of violence or fraudulent activity.”

Screening new employees will help strengthen a firm’s security but it cannot legislate for the future behavior of an individual. Someone may have passed a screening process five years ago but in the time they have worked for a company, they may have become disgruntled or simply switched roles to a more senior position handling more commercially sensitive information. That’s why ongoing periodic checking is highly recommended. People can get very creative when they are trying to hide their backgrounds.

Lamrock summarises: “The screening process used to be viewed as negative – but  employers now recognise huge benefits that swift and efficient screening can deliver by fostering trust and security within a workforce. There are challenges ahead whatever the outcome of Brexit, but companies should remain focused on their objectives and ensure that they are working with the right partners, providers and expert advice to reduce a wider range of insider threats, such as fraud, IP theft or employee-related violence. There is usually a happy medium between our clients’ security, compliance and HR stakeholders, and Pinkerton takes a collaborative approach to find it.”

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