Should you hire someone with a bad reference or who has been fired?

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Making the right hiring decisions for your company is critical to ensure the future success of your business. Employees hold the future of your company in their hands, so what happens when you think you have found the perfect applicant, only to discover they have been fired from a previous position, or their reference is less than glowing?


There are two sides to every story

All references are subjective, and not everyone would fire someone for the same reasons. If a candidate openly tells you they were fired or to expect a bad reference, they have proven that they are at least on some level, trustworthy and honest.

Listen carefully to how the candidate explains their side of the story, and give them credit when they show reflection or how they might behave differently in the future, this indicates growth. Everyone makes mistakes, those that learn from them are unlikely to make the same mistakes again, and could be preferable to someone who has never made a mistake and doesn’t understand the consequences.

Read between the lines of good (and bad) references

Focus on the position you are recruiting for when reading references. What could be considered a problem for one employer might be a bonus for you, and vice versa. Towing the line and keeping quiet might have been wonderful in a previous employment, but you might require someone who thinks outside the box and is proactive.

It is essential to request more than one reference so that you can compare each one. A bad reference could simply be a result of a personality clash, either between the employer and employee or within the team. Everyone is different.

Beware of outdated references. A reference from 10 years ago cannot be considered relevant to someone’s current work ethic. Particularly when someone has had a long period outside of work (due to having children for instance), recent references may not be available, and older references might not be entirely accurate.

Trust your gut

Ultimately, employees are at the mercy of their working environment, so their employment history and references on paper might not necessarily be an accurate reflection of their skills and strengths, more a reflection on company politics.

Look past the application form and references and ask yourself whether this person could be an asset to you going forward; do they share your company vision, will they fit in with the rest of the team and what can they offer you?

Good hiring decisions can be reinforced with correct pre-employment screening, which ensures that a candidate is trustworthy and has a legal right to work. But after the paperwork is done, it comes down to your own instinct as a hiring manager, and shaping your team as you see fit.

Possible reforms to the gig economy delayed

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A report commissioned by Matthew Taylor, Downing Street’s advisor on modern work, published in July, called for changes to employment practices to reflect current business models. The main focus of the report was the gig economy, a growing area of the labour market which has long been criticised for exploitation.

According to an April 2017 parliamentary report, 15.6% of the total full time and part time workforce are self-employed. 1.3 million of those are considered part of the gig economy, people hired as independent contractors and freelancers who are paid per job (or “gig”) as opposed to hourly or weekly. This gives the worker flexibility but no job security or employee rights such as sick leave, maternity leave or holiday pay. Gig workers are also not guaranteed minimum pay, a loophole which can give companies access to cheap labour.

Many gig workers are taxi drivers (working for companies such as Uber), delivery couriers (Deliveroo, Hermes etc), as well as various skilled and unskilled workers in building, cleaning, removals and DIY.

The reforms recommended in Taylors report were expected to improve pay and conditions for the many gig workers in the UK, by redefining who are considered a worker, an employee and self-employed. The reforms are also expected to bring a higher minimum wage for non-guaranteed hours and overtime. This would undoubtedly mean costs for the companies involved, but should reduce the number of court cases fought by contractors and businesses, due to disagreements over pay and conditions. Parts of the reform have now been passed over to chancellor Phillip Hammond because they might affect National Insurance contributions.

But the government has recently delayed the reforms which would have given greater rights to those working in the gig economy. This is thought to be because of the Treasury’s fear that any increase to labour costs could drive the UK’s employment rates down, which could be catastrophic in the wake of Brexit.

The reforms have been delayed for a year, so gig workers will need to wait longer for legislation which would give them more protection. “I would rather it was later and stronger rather than earlier and weaker.” Matthew Taylor commented.

Are your employees leaking confidential information?


24% of UK employees have shared confidential business information, according to new research carried out by Data Privacy and Risk Management company Egress. In the survey of 2000 workers, Egress found that while much of the leakage was accidental, many have purposely handed over information to competitors or new employers.

Where errors have happened, workplace culture has played a huge part. 37% don’t always check emails before sending them, and 68% of email mistakes are caused by rushing, 8% after consuming alcohol. 42% blamed autofill for selecting the wrong email recipient.

40% accidentally insulted the recipient or included rude jokes, swear words or risqué messages, meant for someone else. 46% of respondents said that they had received a panicked email recall request.

Frighteningly, almost 10% said that they had leaked some of the most vulnerable data as attachments, such as bank details or customer information.

Proving that organisations must ensure all employees are trustworthy, half of all survey respondents said that they would delete emails sent in error from their sent folder in an attempt to cover up their mistake. This would mean that businesses may not find out about a data breach in time to minimise damage.

Tony Pepper, CEO of Egress reminded companies of the vulnerability of email, “Leaking confidential information can amount to a data breach.” In his statement, he prompted companies to by mindful of the coming GDPR, which will herald big changes in the data protection practices and breach management of companies. Under GDPR, organisations need to disclose data breaches within 72 hours.

All employees are under a legal obligation not to share confidential information, regardless of whether it is stated in their contract. But when the employment ends, ex-workers have no legal requirement to remain vigilant.

In the wake of the data breaches to NHS, Netflix and Yahoo, many companies are more mindful of the external threat to data protection, and cyber technology can help mitigate this risk. But this new research shows that companies need to be on their guard from privacy threats from employees, both accidental and malicious.

Companies must ensure that employees are thoroughly screened pre-employment, and that existing employees are aware of their obligations to data protection. Meticulous attention to data security begins on the inside.

Why Pre-Employment Debt Screening Is Becoming the Norm

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In a recent report, 1923 job applicants were rejected for employment due to bad debt during the year up to July 2017. For all jobs in the financial sector, it is a legal requirement for all candidates to be subject to a credit check, but many employers are now extending the practice to other industries. Credit checking is fully legal as long as the company has permission from the candidate to carry out the check, and this is usually granted during the recruitment process.

Failing a credit check is now cited as one of the top 5 reasons for being unsuccessful at the vetting stage of recruitment, alongside unspent criminal convictions, false qualifications, disciplinary measures in previous employment, and exaggerated job titles on CV’s.

But with UK consumer credit debt currently at an all time high of £204 billion, people taking on debt just to cover daily expenses and students leaving university with record debt figures, a colourful credit file is becoming more and more common.

Many firms believe that candidates with a history of debt problems could be more likely to commit fraud in the future. Checking that staff members have a responsible financial management record and are not under any significant financial strain could protect your company from the cost of a desperate employee. There is also a risk factor from candidates who might have access to sensitive company data.

Credit checks can include basic searches of public data including court judgements (CCJ’s), Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVA’s) and bankruptcies. More detailed credit checks are also available which will check the status of loans, credit cards and mortgages. Payment details are not disclosed under the Data Protection Act.

Not all debt should be considered bad or irresponsible, many people manage debt well. Only those with four or more defaults in the last 6 years would generally be considered a risk.

Aside from the financial sector, there are currently no legal requirements for credit checks in employment, but it is increasingly being considered best practice under due diligence, to ensure that the successful candidate is trustworthy and of sound financial character.

The Insurance Distribution Directive (IDD)


The Insurance Distribution Directive (IDD) comes into force in February 2018 and replaces the Insurance Mediation Directive 2002 (IMD), both are designed to regulate insurance intermediaries. The IDD covers a much broader scope than the IMD, all insurance and reinsurance distributors, as well as those selling insurance alongside other products, will need to rethink their procedures in order to comply.

The EU wide directive aims to create a “level playing field” for insurance distribution across all distribution channels to ensure the protection of customers. The IDD also intends to improve competition and bring consistent regulation across the entire insurance market, in line with those required in other financial markets. The main principle is that insurance providers and distributors should act in the customers best interest at all times.

For those selling non-advised products (for example online, and usually non-life policies) there will be stricter requirements to correctly identify clients needs and only offer suitable products. Insurers must have procedures in place to ensure all distributors are offering only relevant products to clients across the entire distribution chain. This may result in a simplification of products available.

There are also professional and competence requirements for those selling insurance products, which includes minimum hours training. 15 hours continued professional development training per year, as well record keeping and reporting standards.

Insurance intermediaries will be required to provide an Insurance Product Information Document (IPID) which gives customers details of the product they are purchasing in a standardised format. Under IDD, the IPID should generally not exceed 2 sides of A4 (maximum of 3 sides), be written in plain language and should cover details including type of insurance, level of cover, restrictions, payment, cancellation and dates of cover. The IDD also outlines which symbols should be used to illustrate each section.

Other changes include extending the FCA’s CASS 5 broker client money rules to reinsurance intermediaries, currently only mandatory for primary general insurance brokers.

Anyone selling insurance, even if selling insurance is not your primary business, will have to comply with the Insurance Distribution Directive and have only three months to ensure that procedures meet the criteria.

How to become a British royal


Prince Harry finally proposed to girlfriend Megan Markle and Royal wedding fever has already begun. But Meghan Markle is not British, which means that her path to becoming a royal won’t be simple.

As a US citizen currently living and working in Canada where her TV show Suits is produced, Meghan Markle needs a UK visa to live in Britain. Despite marrying a prince, she will still have to go through the same process as other non-EEA nationals. Applying for a UK visa costs around £1000 and applicants must meet the minimum family income requirement of £18,600 per year or savings of at least £62,500.

The minimum income requirement won’t be a problem for millionaires Meghan and Harry, but the requirement has been criticised by many for keeping families apart. Set in 2012 by then Home Secretary Theresa May, as a means of immigration control, it has created many “Skype families” who stay in touch over Skype. The income requirement was calculated at a rate which should prevent migrants from becoming a burden on the welfare system. But with 40% of British workers in full time or part time employment not meeting the threshold, particularly young people and women, it remains a significant barrier.

Photo credit - Hello Magazine

Photo credit - Hello Magazine

Meghan Markle will need to return to the UK as a fiancé in order to get her status changed. She needs to prove that wedding plans have begun and then must get married within 6 months. As a fiancé, Meghan will not be able to work in the UK, paid or otherwise.

Once the wedding has taken place, she will need to apply to switch her status to spouse. Only after 5 years of living in the UK can Meghan apply for indefinite leave to remain (after passing the Life in the UK test), and after 5 years of marriage she can apply to become a British Citizen.

Even future Royals must follow the rules to be able to legally live and work in Britain. And with all eyes on them, Prince Harry and Miss Markle will have to make sure that they do everything by the book. With fines to employers of £20,000 per illegal worker, it is critical that employers ensure that all their staff are legally entitled to work here.