Understanding BS7858 background employment screening standard

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Matt Desborough
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BS7858 is a British Standard for the security screening of individuals employed in an environment where the security and safety of people, goods or property are required. 

In an environment where people's safety, property protection, and goods' security are critical, not having a thorough background check for employees can be daunting. The possible threats - from data breaches to theft or even harm to individuals - are real and immediate. With these risks lurking, BS7858 - the British Standard for security screening - acts as a safety net. 

This comprehensive vetting process is tailor-made for individuals operating in high-stakes roles where public and corporate interests are involvedat stake. It ensuresserves as an unwavering shield, ensuring that every employee in such sensitive positions is screened and reliable, thus setting a gold standard in safeguarding operational integrity.

The screening process covers a variety of checks and verifications on an individual's background, education, employment history, and criminal records.

A change in BS7858 regulation 

The BS7858 standard underwent a revision in 2019, which brought in a few crucial changes to streamline and improve the security screening process. These changes were designed to reflect evolving practices and needs within the sectors that use the standard.

Ongoing screening: The new standard encourages annual screening requirement for employees, helping ensure that they continue to meet the standard even after the initial hire. This change aims to ensure an ongoing level of compliance and to identify any changes that might affect an individual's suitability for their role. While this change is not mandatory it's recommended as best practice.

More emphasis on risk assessment: The 2019 update places a stronger emphasis on risk assessment in the screening process. Companies are now required to carry out a risk assessment to identify positions within their organisation that require BS7858 screening.

Expanded definition of "screening": The updated standard expanded the definition of "screening" to include not just the verification of factual information but also risk-based information. This could include checks for financial risk, such as bankruptcy or financial misconduct.

Data protection and privacy: Reflecting the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the 2019 update includes more explicit requirements for the handling of data in a way that respects privacy and confidentiality.

More comprehensive guidance: The updated standard includes more detailed guidance on how to conduct the various aspects of the screening process. This is intended to make the process more understandable and straightforward for companies.

No need for character references: Character reference checkss, once a part of the screening process, are no longer required. 

An addition to the BS7858:2019 standard was the introduction of the "Watchlist" check. A Watchlist refers to a list of individuals who are involved in criminal activities or are considered to be a threat to security.

In the context of BS7858, the Watchlist check involves cross-referencing an individual's details against various national and international databases to ensure they are not flagged on any Watchlist. These databases may include lists of individuals involved in financial fraud, terrorist activities, or other serious criminal offences.

These changes have helped the BS7858 standard to remain a robust and relevant tool for ensuring security in the various sectors where it's used.

Scope of a BS7858 check

Scope: The BS7858: 2019 standard applies to a broad range of industries. It includes staff in positions involving people, goods, or property security or safety. For instance, this could apply to personnel in the private security sector, such as security guards or CCTV operators. 

Record retention: Whether an individual is hired or not, the data collected during the BS7858 screening process must be retained for a period of two years. This is important for audit and compliance purposes. Similarly, once an employee leaves the company, their screening records should also be retained for two years. This allows for a reference point should there be any post-employment issues that require investigation.

In the aviation industry, it could include airport security staff. Within healthcare and financial institutions, it may apply to individuals handling sensitive data or working in critical roles. The requirement for BS7858 screening may also extend to subcontractors, temporary staff, and self-employed individuals.

What checks do I need to conduct for BS7858 screening?

Personal identity verification: Personal identity verification forms the foundation of the BS7858 screening. The individual's name, date of birth, and current and previous addresses are checked against official documents like a passport or driving licence. 

This verification process also includes checking the right to work in the UK, which may involve examining immigration status or work permits. A credit check might be conducted to confirm an individual's identity and address and provide insight into their financial integrity.

Employment history: The employment history verification under BS7858 is extensive and covers a minimum of five years. All periods of employment within this timeframe are verified, including the start and end dates, job titles, and reasons for leaving. Any gaps in employment, including periods of unemployment or time spent in education, need to be accounted for and verified.

Government watchlist and sanctions checks: The aim of this check is to add an extra layer of protection, preventing individuals with potentially harmful intentions from gaining access to sensitive roles or environments. This Watchlist check thus contributes to the overall robustness of the BS7858 screening process, further ensuring the safety and security of individuals, goods, and property.

Criminal record checkA criminal record check is a crucial aspect of BS7858. This involves checking the individual's criminal history through the UK's Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). The level of check required will depend on the role. For example, a security guard might need a more thorough check than an office staff member.

Financial checks: A financial check assesses an individual's financial integrity. It involves scrutinising the individual's economic history, which includes County Court Judgments (CCJs), bankruptcies, or Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVAs). 

It helps determine if the individual has been involved in significant debt or financial mismanagement, which might make them a potential risk, particularly in roles that involve financial responsibility.

Document verification: As part of the screening process, critical documents like passports, driving licences, and utility bills are verified. This is essential in validating a person's identity, verifying their right to work in the UK, confirming their current and past addresses, and ascertaining other key identity information.

Timeframe: BS7858 requires screening of the last five years of a candidate's history. However, depending on the specific requirements of an industry or company, this timeframe could be longer. For example, some organisations might wish to look back further than five years for senior positions or roles of particular sensitivity.

Data protection: All personal data gathered, stored, and processed during the screening must be handled in line with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018. This ensures that individuals' privacy rights are upheld, and it also includes requirements for how long data can be stored, how it can be used, and to whom it can be disclosed.

Ongoing checks: The 2019 update to the BS7858 standard (mentioned above) introduced the need for annual checks. This ensures that employees remain compliant with the standard, helping to identify any changes that could affect their suitability for their role. These ongoing checks might include reviewing any changes in criminal record, financial status, or other factors that were included in the initial screening.

The Security Industry Authority (SIA) 

A critical requirement for anyone aspiring to work as a security guard is obtaining a valid SIA card and this should be verified alongside the BS7858 screening. This card acts as a licence to operate within the security industry, signifying that the holder has met the rigorous criteria set by the SIA and is duly authorised to perform their role.

As the organisation responsible for regulating the private security industry within the UK, the SIA ensures all security personnel meet the required standards of integrity and professionalism.

But merely possessing the SIA card isn't enough. It's essential to verify its authenticity against the SIA register. This step ensures that the individual in question is genuinely licensed to work as a security guard. This crucial process not only maintains the integrity of the security industry but also promotes public trust in the services offered by private security personnel.

Who requires the BS7858 Screening

BS7858 screening applies to a range of job roles that require the security and safety of people, goods, or property. Some roles that typically require this type of screening include:

  • Security guards
  • CCTV operators
  • Staff in security control rooms
  • Individuals handling sensitive data
  • Employees in critical roles within financial institutions
  • Workers in the aviation industry responsible for safety and security
  • Healthcare professionals with access to sensitive information
  • Private security staff, including those at events or venues
  • Any role that has substantial access to, or impact on, secure areas, goods, or data

Benefits of BS7858 employee screening

Carrying out BS7858 background checks provides several benefits for organisations. Here are some of the key benefits:

  • Risk reduction: The main benefit of these checks is that they reduce risks by identifying potential security threats before they arise. This is particularly important in industries that deal with sensitive information or high-value assets.
  • Compliance: Conducting BS7858 background checks is required for specific industries to comply with regulations. Failing to comply result in penalties or restrictions on operating ability.
  • Building trust: An organisation conducting thorough background checks builds trust with clients and stakeholders by demonstrating that they take security seriously.
  • Quality of hire: Background checks ensure that the people you hire are reliable and have the qualifications and experience. This improves the overall quality of your staff and, consequently, your services.
  • Employee morale & safety: Knowing that all staff members undergo a rigorous screening process improve employee morale and create a safer and more secure working environment.
  • Protection of reputation: A security breach, fraud, or other misconduct by an employee seriously damages an organisation's reputation. Background checks help prevent such incidents.
  • Reduction in employee turnover: By ensuring that potential employees are suitable for their roles and the environment they'll be working in, companies reduce the likelihood of problems arising that could lead to prematurely leaving.
  • Prevention of fraud and theft: Through financial checks, these screenings identify individuals who might be a risk for theft or fraud, thus protecting the company's assets.
  • Efficient decision making: A standardised background check process leads to more efficient hiring decisions. This is particularly valuable for organisations that need to fill positions quickly.
  • Ensuring continuity: The BS7858:2019 standard introduces the requirement for annual checks, helping ensure that employees continue to meet the standards and maintain a secure and compliant work environment.

Final thoughts

Managing and ensuring compliance with the requirements of BS7858 background checks can be a challenging task. The process can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to tracking and conducting re-checks. 

It could be beneficial to work with a  trusted third-party provider specialising in automated solutions for background checks. In doing so, you streamline your background check procedures, save valuable time, and most importantly, maintain compliance with industry standards. 

If you are interested in simplifying your background check procedures and staying compliant, we encourage you to book a demo.

BS7858 offers an essential layer of protection for organisations. By adhering to BS7858, we create a culture of safety, integrity, and trust, thereby creating an environment where both people and businesses can thrive. A comprehensive background check, truly does save time - ensuring peace of mind, promoting operational efficiency, and most importantly, safeguarding our security.

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