July 22nd, 2019 | Sterling

What is BPSS? The essentials of the Baseline Personnel Security Standard

BPSS - The essentials of the Baseline Personnel Security Standard

What is BPSS and who does it cover?

The Baseline Personnel Security Standard, otherwise known as BPSS, was established to meet the minimum level of checks required for all civil servants, members of the armed forces, temporary staff and government contractors, or alternatively, any individual that can access government assets. BPSS was introduced as the direct replacement for the Basic Checks in 2006 and as Government guidance confirms, permits access to UK OFFICIAL assets, occasional access to UK secret assets, and allows for work in areas where SECRET and TOP SECRET information may be overheard. Additionally, BPSS must be considered for anyone requiring access to the Public Services Network (PSN).

Although, in subsequent years from 2013, the key triggers for the surge in demand of BPSS came as a result of the phased introduction of requirements for the PSN, as seen below:

  1. 2013 – all users of PSN services or data needed to be BPSS checked
  2. 2014 – all users of PSN email had to be BPSS checked
  3. 2015 – all users of PSN services, emails or data must be BPSS checked

It’s worth noting that BPSS would not be deemed adequate for an individual operating in a position where they are able to gain a complete and overall picture of a SECRET plan, policy or project.  For this, formal security clearance is a must.

With this in mind, BPSS is the most basic of the four levels of personnel security controls, and as the ‘Baseline’ name suggests, represents a prerequisite for higher levels of national security checks that include, the Counter-Terrorist Check (CTC), Security Check (SC) and Developed Vetting (DV).

The purpose of a BPSS check

The main purpose of BPSS according to the HMG BPSS guidance, is to act as a sensible and precautionary measure intended to “confirm the identity of individuals (employees and contractors) and provide a level of assurance as to their trustworthiness, integrity and reliability.” Hopefully, with the aim of mitigating potential risks – that may include identifying individuals involved in illegal activities, identifying unspent criminal convictions not disclosed but revealed by other sources, and identifying CV or qualification embellishments. The latter is particularly prevalent, as according to our research, 53% of resumes and job applications contain falsifications.

However, ultimately at a macro level, BPSS also aims to reinforce and protect national security, safeguarding the country and community against untoward dangers that may impact order and well-being. This could extend to threats to citizens, way of life, integrity and interests.

BPSS Checks

Four key elements of the BPSS standard which must be verified – the mnemonic ‘RICE‘ fits as a handy reminder:

  1. Right to Work – Verification of Nationality, ID documentation and Immigration status*
  2. Identity – ID Data check (electronic identity authentication – name, address, aliases, links, accounts etc.)
  3. Criminal Records – Search for ‘unspent’ convictions (Basic Disclosure)
  4. Employment checks – Confirmation of 3 years (minimum) Employment History / Activity

All organisations carrying out a BPSS check, even the Civil service, must ensure that they comply with the immigration, asylum and nationality act 2006, aiming to prevent illegal migrants working in the UK. It is also important to note, that prospective employees are obliged to give a reasonable account of any substantial periods spent abroad (six months or more in the past  three years).

The responsibility for the application of BPSS checks on a candidate generally rests with the HR function, although the government advises that HR should work in conjunction with security units and if possible, with the involvement of legal advisors and procurement staff.

Recent developments

Organisations are beginning to acknowledge the increased importance of screening their contingent workforce, particularly third-party contractors, to the same standards of their own employees. After all, many of these workers will have the same level of access to company information and resources. This is consistent with our research which shows that 60% of organisations encouragingly  screen their contingent workforce, including contractors or temporary workers, compared to 53% in 2016 indicating a gradual increase. However, a 40% gap still exists, which we predict will steadily close.

An increasing number of organisations are now partnering with screening providers to implement and create more robust and comprehensive screening programmes, with 8 of out 10 now acknowledging the importance of background screening (compared to 6 out of 10 in 2016). It’s also clear that many companies are now mirroring and  completing the four key elements of the BPSS standard, with a clear focus on ongoing checks, as there is a realisation that a one-off check only provides an assessment of a person at that point in time.

Increased Demand for security checks

It’s clear that the demand for security screening standards, particularly relating to BPSS shows no sign of slowing down or diminishing. Compliance represents a primary consideration for many employers, and with an increase in screening regulations this is perhaps no surprise. It is also consistent with our trends report which indicates that improving or meeting regulatory compliance is now the top cause for conducting pre-employment background screening.

*In January 2019, the Home Office introduced an online service for Right to Work checks – for more information on this, listen to our on-demand webinar with the Home Office and Fragomen LLP, where we discuss the latest technology and compliance updates around right to work.

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.