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The gig economy and how to screen for it

The gig economy is frequently in the media these days, with companies constantly hitting the headlines about their management of the contingent workforce.

Take Uber, for example, who had its operating license temporarily suspended due to questions surrounding background checks carried out on drivers. This has highlighted a rising need for regulating the ever-growing gig economy.

But with the law regarding contractors seemingly in a constant state of flux, it can be confusing to decide to what extent screening is necessary for short term hires.

According to the ONS, 4.75 million people in the UK are currently working as self-employed, making up 15.1% of the working population. With companies looking for ways to cut costs, more and more of them are turning to freelancers to fill gaps in company skill sets without the commitment of a permanent hire. Therefore, it is good business practice to treat freelance and short-term hires in the same way as permanent staff members, with careful and proactive screening.

It is essential to protect your business, and while employers may feel that screening short term hires is costly in both money and time, the risks of hiring the wrong person far outweigh the initial outlay. Freelance workers will often have the same access to company resources, information and customers as permanent hires. Ensuring that everyone who works with your company is trustworthy and has the necessary skills and education to carry out the task effectively provides peace of mind and helps create a level of trust between freelancer and client.

Every person who provides services to you should be considered ambassadors for your brand, and therefore poses a risk to company reputation should things go awry, even if someone is not on the staff list. And with employee fraud, theft, data security breaches or illegal working just as prevalent in gig workers as in the permanent workforce, it is prudent to carry out the same level of checking as with permanent hires.

Some checks for the gig economy:

  • DBS criminal records are a legal requirement for certain roles, with three levels of checks available: basic, standard and enhanced.
  • Right to work check – hiring someone without the right to work in the UK carries a £20,000 fine. While the self-employed currently fall outside this legislation, this should be treated with caution as, depending on the nature of the appointment, many contingent workers could fall into the ‘worker’ or ‘employee’ category, making businesses liable.
  • Educational and employment checks to ensure that the contractor has the necessary skills and education for the task.

Using a third-party screening provider will ensure that your legal obligations are met. Subjecting freelancers and contractors to the same level of screening as permanent hires is a prudent step towards to ensuring that your business is protected from a bad hire.

First published by Security Watchdog, part of Capita People Solutions

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Matt Payne

Head of design and marketing, Security Watchdog, part of Capita

With over a decade of experience in all aspects of B2B digital marketing, Matt has been involved in creating worldwide campaigns for the likes of BT, Fujitsu, Tata Communications and now Capita. Matt has been a thought leader in the employment screening sector for the last 18 months and has a clear focus on progressing Security Watchdog to become a world leader.

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