Categorized | alan's blog

So who are you again?

So who are you again?

You have to feel sorry for the poor recruitment industry. I mean, after several years of being beaten up by the bean counters who run their business these days to improve throughput and efficiency, they finally get to the point where the process is as effortless as it’s going to get.

Preferred Supplier Lists mean they get first sight of any new work. Keyword searches mean they don’t actually have to talk to candidates, but simply send in the first few CVs with the right keywords. Write-only answer phones mean they can’t be contacted. Back Office systems and so called “self-billing” arrangements (which aren’t but let’s not quibble) mean payment processes are self maintaining. Life is simple and efficient.

Then Primark got prosecuted for using illegal workers

Let’s remember that agencies’ main concern is the avoidance of risk. That’s why the contracts are usually so complex; it’s mostly to ensure the agency doesn’t get caught for the mistakes of the contractors it supplies nor for any taxes or other costs the contractor or client may incur for any reason whatsoever. So naturally their reaction to Primark was typically understated.

It used to be that you could go for a job with only a cursory check on your actual existence. Of course, having actually spoken to you – or even met you in person – the agent could be reasonably sure you were who you said you were. These days, as I’ve said before, the agent would much prefer not to talk to you, much less take time away from the telesales work actually to go and meet you.

When the need to demonstrate you had checked the candidate’s ID first cropped up, this got extended to you sending a bastardised copy of your passport – not that that’s a proof if ID, of course – and maybe a utility bill or similar to prove you had a real address (none of which, needless to say, can possibly be faked).

However Primark made them realise they could be prosecuted for a whole new range of things. As a result half of the agency’s time is now taken up with people running around looking at candidates holding passports, paying other agencies to run ID checks and doing a whole host of credit checks and other activities. All this, note, before you get sent for the interview.

As an aside, there are also concerns about what happens to all this data once it’s in the agency’s hands. A typical contractor might well supply half a dozen copies of some fairly personal data in a year, and I’m pretty damned sure not too many agencies will have paid to be ISO27001 compliant.

Thing is, of course, 99% of this is totally unnecessary, since it applies to employees, not contractors. Since the agency goes to enormous lengths to demonstrate that legally you are not their employee, nor the client’s, why does this whole scenario apply at all?

Perhaps if we ever get IR35 sorted out and have a clear test for whether or not you are a supplier or an employed temporary worker, then we can stop all this pointless activity.

Meanwhile, can anyone explain why my Company Secretary can’t sign a letter asserting all my company’s staff, be they employees or directors, are allowed to work here and accepting full responsibility should that prove to be untrue?

Do that and the agencies can go back to their usual state of happy indolence again.

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Image: Vintage ITT Telephone Handset by mightyohm

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