Online Checks[1]

Online pre-employment searches to be recommended in new Department for Education guidance



The initial draft version of the Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) statutory guidance for 2022, has been released, ahead of its official version which will be coming into force on the 1st of September.

Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) Guidance

The guidance is designed to help schools and colleges to carry out safer recruitment practises and to safeguard children in their care.

The guidance outlines what schools and colleges must do to comply with the law and to promote the welfare of children and young people under the age of 18. KCSIE guidance must be followed unless there is very good reason not to.

In January 2022, a public consultation was published detailing proposed changes to the guidance, in May 2022 the government’s responses were pub-lished, and in September 2022, the new version will come into force.

Pre-employment online searches

One of the changes which will come into force from Septem-ber 2022, is the recommendation for schools and colleges to carry out “online searches” on shortlisted candidates:

“220. In addition, as part of the shortlisting process schools and colleges should consider carrying out an online search as part of their due diligence on the shortlisted candidates. This may help identify any inci-dents or issues that have happened, and are publicly available online, which the school or college might want to explore with the applicant at interview.”

KCSIE Draft Guidance 2022

What does “online search” mean?

Initially, the proposed guidance referred to “social media,” however, this has since been adjusted to the term “online searches” to allow recruiting schools or colleges a broader scope, and to take into account the sometimes unreliable nature of social media profiles when considered in isolation.

“The expectation appears to be that schools and colleges will not need to go through a shortlisted candidate’s whole social media presence, but they should enter a shortlisted candidate’s name (including any other ver-sions of their name provided by the candidate) into a search engine to see what information comes up. As this is not clarified in the guidance, it is hoped that the De-partment for Education or Ofsted will confirm the correct approach before 1 September 2022.”

CIPD HR

How should checks be carried out?

The government consultation findings stated that many schools and colleges already do these searches when shortlisting candi-dates. There were concerns from some schools however, that such searches are an invasion of privacy, and that they felt un-comfortable carrying them out.

Security Watchdog would not condone members of staff carrying these searches out individually, due to the following risks:

  • Unconscious biases when viewing a profile

  • Potential discrimination claims if candidates are not hired

  • Non-standardised processes which cannot be fairly repli-cated across all candidates

In order to avoid potential discrimination claims and to ensure compliant, unbiased searches are carried out fairly for all candi-dates, the use of third party suppliers to conduct these searches should be encouraged. Not only does this mitigate the risk of legal complications, but it also provides accurate, unbiased infor-mation for the schools and colleges to assess as part of their shortlisting process.

The government stated in their response that:

“Schools and colleges should use their professional judgement in considering any information that comes to light.”

Are online searches mandatory for new recruits?

The KCSIE guidance around online searches is not mandatory, but is recommended; therefore if searches are not carried out, the employer must record the reason why they have not been done, and ensure that all candidates are treated consistently in light of this decision.

The Advisory Bureau will continue to monitor for any further updates to this guidance prior to September. To read the full guidance, click here.

 
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