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Two-thirds of UK companies fail to check employee references ahead of start dates

According to new research conducted by HireRight – the leading global due diligence organisation – most UK companies are failing to check references before new employees start in their roles and are struggling to respond to other companies’ reference requests.

The Point of Reference research suggests that two-thirds (66%) of new employees begin work before their reference checks are complete. Two-in-five (39%) of Human Resources (HR) function leaders believe this is normal practice within their industry.

However, such checks are absolutely vital. The HireRight study reveals that more than half (58%) of successful applications contain errors*. In tandem, one third (36%) of HR leaders admit they need a clearer way of identifying job candidates with malicious intent.

Steve Girdler, managing director (EMEA) at HireRight, explained: “References reveal important details about an individual’s history and help employers ensure they can trust the people they allow to work with their customers, clients and colleagues. By failing to carry out due diligence before people start work, companies risk hiring individuals unable to fulfil the duties of their respective roles, who may commit fraud or theft or even damage customer relationships.”

Steve Girdler: managing director (EMEA) at HireRight

Steve Girdler: managing director (EMEA) at HireRight

Girdler added: “A great deal of damage can be done between the moment an employee starts at a new company and when referencing requests are completed.”

‘Administrative burden’ on HR Departments

HireRight’s Point of Reference research results are based on the perspectives of senior HR leaders in some of the UK’s biggest companies. The results also highlight that reference checking is an administrative burden on many HR Departments at a time when they’re already struggling to find enough hours in the day for important strategic work.

One third (31%) of HR Departments are ‘bogged down’ with responding to queries about references. In a quarter (27%) of cases, employees have complained to their managers about the amount of time they spend working on such requests.

Many HR Departments simply don’t have the spare capacity when one third (34%) of their time is spent on administrative tasks. HR leaders themselves estimate they spend an average of two hours and 12 minutes every day on what might be described as ‘low value’ work.

This latest Point of Reference research is based on detailed interviews with 140 senior HR leaders in both regulated and non-regulated UK companies boasting more than 5,000 employees.

*The inaccuracies figure quoted is based on the analysis of data from candidate due diligence programmes, with this quarter’s findings focused on 121,000 checks of almost 34,000 applications between July and September 2014

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