In a small business, every team member makes a difference, down to the last person.
That’s why pre-employment checks are so useful - and necessary - to make sure you’re staying on the right side of the law, making smart decisions and avoiding costly mistakes.
From personal experience, I can tell you that most small businesses don’t have a pre-employment check process in place.
When you’re in the early stages of growth and just have a small handful of employees, you can afford to be more casual about your hiring processes. However, that won’t be the case for long.
Few small business owners have the free time and expertise to focus on compliance - and that has a nasty habit of gnawing at them from the back of their minds.
That’s why I’d like to make it easy for you. I’ll go into what pre-employment checks are and why they’re important, what pre-employment screening checks you’ll need to conduct, and cover details like when they should happen and how long they take.
What are pre-employment checks, and why are they important?
Pre-employment checks are the series of screening, verifications and assessments that need to take place before you onboard a new hire officially as an employee of your organisation.
Pre-employment checks make sure that the person you hired is who they say they are, that they have no hidden secrets in their personal and work history and that they're the right person for the role.
The importance of pre-employment checks
Generally, the pre-employment checks involve verifying the employee’s work history, qualifications, and skills. It’s all about ensuring that their story matches what’s on their CV.
You might think of them as doing your due diligence before you get to welcome the new hire with welcome arms and say “You’re hired!”
Pre-employment checks in the UK are important for several reasons.
Doing proper and thorough pre-employment checks is your first line of defence against risks like legal liabilities and workplace conflicts. A bad hire can do more than cost you money - it can contribute to a more toxic and hostile work environment.
These pre-employment screenings also act as a quality filter to make sure the new hire hasn’t fudged their qualifications and skills.
You don’t want to hire an Oxford graduate, only to examine their CV with a little more scrutiny and find out their degree is from a diploma mill in Oxford, Mississippi.
In many industries, doing these pre-employment checks is a legal requirement, particularly in sectors involving military and defence, or working with children and elderly adults.
Doing thorough checks can also lead to higher employee retention rates. When you make sure there’s a good fit between the new hire and the role, you’ll set them up for future success and make it more likely they’ll stick around.
Secure document storage with CharlieHR
After you do the pre-employment checks and verify your new hire’s work history, the CharlieHR employee database software can take it from there and secure your employee documents like contracts and visas. You can also set up customisable permissions to keep it safe.
When should you conduct pre-employment checks?
When it comes to employee onboarding, timing is everything. Ideally, you should start the pre-employment checks on the potential new hire as soon as they’ve finished their initial interview.
After the initial interview
After you’ve shortlisted the ideal candidates for the role, that’s your cue to start the pre-employment checks. That way, you’ll be investing your time and energy in the most promising candidates.
Before the job offer
Hold off on extending a formal job offer to the new hire until the pre-employment checks are complete. That should help you avoid any legal pitfalls that should happen if you retract an offer.
Conditional job offers
On the other hand, you could also extend a conditional job offer that is contingent on the outcome of their pre-employment checks. That’s a more flexible approach that allows you to get the ball rolling, but be sure you state the conditions unambiguously.
For roles that require a high-security clearance or more rigorous compliance standards, the checks will be ongoing, even after employment has commenced.
What pre-employment screening checks does a small business in the UK need to conduct?
The future of your small business depends on staying on the right side of UK employment law, including doing your pre-employment checks promptly.
Here are the mandatory pre-employment screenings that are most important.
Right to work in the UK
First of all, you’ll have to verify the candidate’s right to work in the United Kingdom. Failure to verify the right-to-work check can have you facing a fine of up to £20,000.
After that, you’ll want to check the references on their CV. Contact previous employers to verify their work history and qualifications.
Optional pre-employment checks
Now, I’ll break down the pre-employment checks that are not mandatory but could be important depending on your small business and the nature of the role.
Criminal record checks
Verifying the new hire’s criminal record is necessary for any roles that involve working with children or elderly adults, to ensure their safety.
Jobs that involve manual labour or specific health and safety requirements could also require medical checks.
Other pre-employment checks you may want to consider are educational qualifications and financial checks, which may be relevant depending on the role.
How long do pre-employment checks take?
After you decide what checks you'll need to take for the role and your small business, putting them into action will take some time.
How long they’ll take to complete depends on their relative importance, but most pre-employment checks will take within a few days to a week.
Criminal history checks - a couple of weeks
Verifying a new hire’s criminal history will likely take the longest. Domestic checks are quicker, but international criminal history can take longer to investigate. You should anticipate it to take between a few days to a couple of weeks.
Reference checks - up to five business days
Reference checks are typically pretty straightforward, and last about 1-5 business days. They are generally quick but can vary depending on how responsive the references are.
Educational and professional certification verification - a couple of weeks
This one can take anywhere from a few days to a week or two, depending on the institution and the type of verification required.
Financial checks - a couple of days
Credit checks are usually the quickest and take just 1-3 business days.
Seal the deal with CharlieHR onboarding
That’s the what, how, and when of pre-employment checks for small businesses in the UK. Conducting these checks thoroughly, efficiently, and properly helps you create a team that is qualified and works together for your company’s success.
After you finish your pre-employment checks, CharlieHR can help with anything that comes after, from secure document storage to automating the rest of the onboarding process.
Start a free trial today, and together we’ll check to make sure you’ve put your dream team together.