Report Reveals 40 Percent of UK Organisations Do Not Conduct Background Checks on Foreign-Born or International Workers

April 17th, 2018

New Findings from Sterling Uncover a Worrying Gap Between the Number of Organisations Hiring International or Foreign-Born Employees and Those Conducting Global Background Screenings

New York, NY, April 17, 2018 – Organisations in the UK believe background screening is a critical, valuable business component and is more than just a commodity, according to the “Background Checks 2018: UK Trends & Best Practices Report” from Sterling (Sterling), the world’s largest background screening company. The report, which surveyed more than 300 UK employers from 33 industries, examined the background screening landscape in the UK, gleaning insight into pre-employment screening trends, challenges and best practices.

The report provided some encouraging statistics, notably that organisations are further recognizing the importance of pre-employment screening, with nearly eight out of 10 (78 percent) businesses currently carrying out checks, up from six out of 10 in 2016. Additionally, UK businesses are optimistic about growth, with more than half (56 percent) expecting staff levels to rise over the next year.

“From increased globalization and uncertainty around Brexit to the complexity of GDPR, the need for UK employers to hire with confidence is becoming ever more crucial,” said Steve Smith, Vice President at Sterling. “Our research found that background screening plays an increasingly vital role in successful recruitment programmes and indicated that more employers are recognizing the importance of meeting compliance needs and standards.”

The Growth of Global Hiring

Despite the impact of Brexit, the number of EU citizens working in the UK is at a record high, with 79 percent of UK companies stating that they employ foreign-born workers. That said, the report uncovered a worrying gap in that 40 percent of organisations are not screening these international employees.

As regulations differ between countries, it can often dissuade organisations from conducting these global screenings. Implementing a robust global screening policy or working with a third-party provider can mitigate risk and ensure compliance with a variety of regional compliance standards.

The Importance of Screening All Workers in the Gig Economy

As the gig economy continues to grow both globally and in the UK specifically, only 60 percent of contractors and contingent or temporary workers are screened, compared to 89 percent of full-time employees. While this is an increase compared to last year’s number (53 percent), the 40 percent of organisations not screening this portion of the workforce are putting themselves at significant risk to employee issues such as fraud, theft or hiring migrant workers who might not be legally able to work in the UK. As the contingent workforce continues to grow, it is important for businesses to have documented policies in place to screen both temporary and permanent employees.

Unexplained Gaps in Employment are Most Concerning to Employers

Of the common discrepancies found during pre-hire screenings, approximately 40 percent of UK companies stated that unexplained gaps in employment or education history are most concerning to them. Following this top concern are, criminal convictions (16 percent), unfavourable references (15 percent) and discrepancies in dates or falsification of education (seven percent).

The report notes that screening candidates can uncover these discrepancies in advance and can ensure accurate information is provided on the person’s experience and qualifications. Additionally, uncovering this information through an advanced screening provides the candidate with an opportunity to potentially explain the situation before a final hiring decision is made.

The Evolution and Importance of Social Media Screening

The report found that the majority (60 percent) of companies do not conduct any social media screening, yet more than half of UK HR professionals admit that a candidate’s online reputation can influence hiring decisions.

As the popularity and usage of social media platforms continue to skyrocket, the report recommends working with a third party to develop a clear, documented policy around social media screening. Despite its importance, only eight percent of organisations plan to add this element to their screening programme in the next year.

A free version of Sterling’s “Background Checks 2018: UK Trends & Best Practices Report” is now available for download.

About Sterling:

Sterling, the world’s largest background screening provider, provides hiring peace of mind by delivering a simpler, smarter background screening experience for organisations worldwide. Our comprehensive suite of background screening solutions deliver accurate, reliable results and tools to maintain compliance throughout the hiring cycle. Visit us at

Media Contact:

Jonathan Fleming



This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.

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