Who do you invite into your premises?

With the heightened terror threat in the UK, many commercial organisations are increasing their level of security manpower and systems to ensure that their premises are protected from the unknown.

The one thing that is often not considered is the threat that may come from individuals who are invited into your premises when they are working as contractors.

If you engage a security guarding company with Security Industry Authority Approved Contractor Scheme (SIA ACS) or a systems company with National Security Inspectorate Gold Status you have the assurance that these companies are inspected regularly and their vetting procedures meet the basic requirements of BS 7858:2012 and right to work checks are completed.

However; when other contractors are deployed, outside of the security industry, many will not have undergone any past employment screening or right to work checks. In areas of high turnover, such as catering and cleaning, the team of staff are often backed up by agency workers, at short notice, to ensure that the contract company can meet their manpower giving little or no time to verify that the minimum screening checks have been completed.
During a recent client meeting to discuss the penetration audits we provide, the statement was made ‘We ask you to breach our security and gain access to all parts of our premises, but we have never asked you how you select your auditors’. I was obviously able to immediately satisfy them of the selection and vetting process that we implement, but many contractors are allowed access to premises (sometimes outside normal working hours to prevent disruption to the day to day business) and they will have undergone no vetting at all.

In some instances when contractors visit to carry out repairs or maintenance, one or more of the Security team is required to shadow the contractors for the whole period of time they are on site, but in real terms this is not always a practical answer.

The minimum requirement that companies should insist on from their contractor is that they have carried out basic background and right to work checks. Depending on the role they are performing whilst on site, and the business within the premises, much more stringent checks should also be considered and proof of identity verified prior to access being allowed.

There is much publicity regarding the employment of illegal workers in the UK and currently the maximum penalty for the employer is £20,000 per person employed, if it can be proved that adequate checks were not performed prior to their engagement. The liability does rest with the employer, however, when illegal workers are found to be working as contractors the site owners are often found to be implicated in the resulting publicity.
Some organisations are now insisting that contractors provide their passport for checking, prior to commencing work on site, and these can be checked within minutes either on desk top systems or hand held devices to confirm their authenticity.

If companies carry out stringent vetting on their own employees, it makes sense to request the same standards from their contractors whatever the service they are providing.