What is a BPSS check in the UK?
BPSS, otherwise known in full as the Baseline Personnel Security Standard, is the accepted benchmark for pre-employment screening of individuals with access to government resources. While it’s essential in some industries, its approach is being mirrored across organizations and sectors as a best practice due to its robust and extensive nature. It’s stringent and consistent application, forms the foundations of the UK security vetting process, and higher levels of checks within this - in this article we’ll provide an overview of the BPSS clearance and what this means for you as an employer, however if you’d like to read the guidance in depth, the UK government is a key resource.
Who requires a BPSS check?
Anyone with access to government resources requires a BPSS check. This includes all civil officials, soldiers, temporary workers employed by departments, and all government contractors in general.
Although it is not a formal security clearance, BPSS is a key requirement for higher levels of security controls such as the Counter-Terrorist Check (CTC), Security Check (SC), and Developed Vetting (DV). In addition to the BPSS, some organizations may ask for references and additional checks (such as health) as part of their hiring process.
It's important to note, that a BPSS clearance wouldn't be considered sufficient for someone working in a position where they might get a full understanding of a SECRET strategy, program, or project. A formal security clearance is an essential requirement for this.
BPSS Clearance's Primary Objective
Government guidance states that the primary goal of a BPSS clearance is to serve as a prudent and preventative step designed to "confirm the identification of persons (workers and contractors) and offer a level of confidence as to their trustworthiness, integrity, and dependability." Hopefully with the intention of minimizing possible hazards, which may include finding people engaged in illicit activity, discovering criminal convictions, and identifying embellishments to a person’s resume or credentials.
At a high level, a BPSS clearance also serves to strengthen and maintain national security, protecting the nation and its citizens from undesirable threats that might jeopardize law and order and general well-being. This also extends to threats to way of life, integrity, and interests.
What background checks are conducted as part of a BPSS check?
Some organizations may wish to add additional checks as an extra layer of protection , such as health checks, social media checks and global sanctions checks - although in general these are the typical checks that are conducted as part of the BPSS clearance:
In addition, candidates are obliged to provide a realistic explanation of any extended periods of time spent abroad (a total of 6 months or more in the previous 3 years).
The Immigration, Asylum, and Nationality Act of 2006, which aims to stop illegal immigrants from working in the UK, must be complied with by any organizations conducting a BPSS clearance, including the Civil Service. Additionally, it's crucial to remember that potential workers must provide a realistic description of any lengthy stays overseas (six months or more in the past three years).
The government urges HR personnel to operate with security units, and if possible legal advisors and procurements members, although typically the human resources department is responsible for carrying out the BPSS check on candidates.
Updates on BPSS checks
Organizations are starting to see how crucial it is to hold third-party contractors, in particular, to the same standards as their own workers when it comes to background checks. Considering that many of these employees have equal access to corporate data and resources. Veremark recently published an article on the importance of rescreening today’s modern workforce.
It's also evident that many businesses are now adopting the four essential components of the BPSS standard, with a strong emphasis on continuous checks (or rescreening) , since employers now acknowledge that a one-time check only serves to evaluate a person’s background at that specific moment in time.
How long is a BPSS check valid?
Officially speaking, a BPSS check for UK nationals never expires. The BPSS can be maintained continuously as long as the person stays employed by the same business. This holds true even if a person quits their job and then comes back within a year. When employees change organizations, the new employer may, in some cases, accept an existing BPSS alongside their own recommended checks. However, given that employers are legally required to conduct the majority of the elements such as a right-to-work check, a responsible organization should conduct the entire process again to mitigate risk.
For a robust and effective approach to screening, a BPSS clearance or a mirrored approach could form an essential part of your background screening process to mitigate risks, and to know who you’re hiring is fit for the position. Whether you’re looking to conduct a one-off BPSS clearance, or to incorporate this as part of your original screening policy for your employees going forward - our team is on hand to offer expert guidance and to start your BPSS journey - so that you can trust faster, and hire sooner.