June 24th, 2021 | Sterling

Rescreening: Steps to Maintain a Safer Gig Workforce

Covid-19 and the gig economy

While certain industries such as hospitality and retail bore the brunt of the impact from Covid-19, others, like the gig economy, saw a marked increase in demand. As many of us know only too well, lockdown restrictions in the United Kingdom and other countries meant that only essential trips were permitted, resulting in the limitation of physical visits to retail stores or restaurants. As the digital and physical worlds have collided, the gig economy has provided convenience and necessity during the most testing of times. This is reflected in the exponential rise of this industry, with delivery alone representing £2 for every £10 spent on food service during the pandemic, and growing by £3.3bn in 2020 to a total value of £11.4bn — double its 2015 market value.

Designed with flexibility in mind

Even before the pandemic, the gig economy was very much an emerging sector, and an attractive proposition for both the employer and workforce alike. In a global Mckinsey survey, 70% of respondents claimed that the greatest feature of gig work was flexibility, helping to strike the right work-life balance.

On the other hand, the gig model enables employers to scale their workforce at speed, with volume in mind, and to do so more cost effectively than traditional methods of hiring. In many instances, gig economy work relies more on the productivity of the individual rather than the time spent working, and therefore this transactional approach has the potential to be an effective proposition for employers. Which is why many similar business models are starting to emerge across numerous industries outside of the typical ride sharing and food delivery businesses that we may be more familiar with.

While the familiar term “gig economy” is heavily featured around the world, in a Sterling Live session, our very own Steve Smith and David Bloom discussed how all companies could be considered somewhat gig, while also going into detail about how this concept could be seen as a “horizontal” rather than the more typical “vertical” — if you haven’t got the time to watch the full session, you can read a high-level summary in our blog, “The Gig Economy Influence: What Every Industry Can Learn From Gig”.

Building the foundations of trust and safety in gig

With an increased appetite and demand for this nature of work, the gig economy shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon — with predictions suggesting food delivery will be worth £12.6bn by 2024, growing from 2022 and beyond. Sterling previously documented the exponential rise in couriers and other roles, highlighting the continued need for robust background checks due to the direct contact the workforce has with the public, as is the case for many gig businesses. More so, organisations that hire at scale and in such large volumes almost by default face greater risks, which puts risk mitigation at the forefront. It is also generally acknowledged that most workers will not meet any representative from the organisation due to the volume and scale of operations, and therefore an initial background check made up of the necessary elements such as identity and RTW verification provide a strong foundation. However, while this remains a great starting step, it’s important to keep pace with the lives of your workforce to safeguard their colleagues, your reputation, and the public. This is where a robust rescreening policy could play a critical role.

Determine the type of background check required

There is a necessary step before you even begin the rescreening process. You’ll need to determine the types of checks needed. As a starting point, the most commonly processed criminal record check and Right to Work verification should be a key consideration. The latter is an essential element for all workers in the UK, and as the name suggests, ensures a worker has the legal right to operate for you in the UK, before employment commences. This is a serious consideration for employers across the country as failure to carry out the correct checks could result in drastic consequences that include fines of up to £20,000 per illegal worker.

Know who you are hiring

As gig workforces grow and businesses find they’re potentially managing thousands of applicants at any one time, there is the risk of losing touch with the applicant’s onboarding journey. To help, consideration should be given to getting the right processes into place as part of a robust rescreening program such as Sterling’s UK Right to Work ID Verification. This can help confirm an individual is who they say they are and that they have the legal right to work, done so through a combination of artificial intelligence and expert human review when required. Not only that, but when it comes to future compliance considerations such as those issued by the UK Home Office, these are also incorporated for your peace of mind.

How rescreening could play a key role in your screening programs

At a basic level, rescreening is the process of performing background checks after a certain period of being operational, whether that’s 6 months, a year, or even 3 years. This presents an opportunity to update an individual’s record with relevant findings that may have occurred during the specified period after the initial background checks. Perhaps you’re trying to capture any changes to the immigration status of your workforce, or you’d like to update their criminal record — rescreening presents an opportunity to do so. It’s important to note that the types of checks performed as part of this program are generally less broad in scope than the initial onboarding checks, and that’s because it’s unlikely they would have changed since then.

Sterling continues to support numerous gig organisations as we emerge from the pandemic. With the gig economy’s agile and rapid hiring programs, we help deliver much needed scalability and flexibility when the time arises.

With this in mind, we’ve created a helpful rescreening checklist designed specifically for the gig economy — you can access your copy here.

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.