Tania Bowers, General Counsel and Head of Public Policy at APSCo addresses education recruitment compliance.
Compliance is a key part of any recruitment business, regardless of the sector the company services. However, for education staffing firms, compliance is not only critically important, but it is also highly complex. The risks of getting it wrong doesn’t just expose a recruiter to significant legal and financial penalties. It also presents a very real chance that children and minors have been put in potential unsafe circumstances. So, how can you ensure your business and its recruiters remain compliant and what can other sectors learn from the compliance challenges in education?
Know the right sources
Education recruiters have a certain duty of care as part of their role and there is statutory guidance published by the Department of Education (DfE) and Ofsted standards that must be adhered to, which staffing companies in this specialism will certainly be aware of. But schools and head teachers are looking for more and they undoubtedly want to know that their recruitment partner is truly going above and beyond to ensure permanent staff and supply teachers being put forward are appropriately vetted. That’s why APSCo developed its Compliance + best practice requirements for education recruitment, and we hold all of our sector members to this standard.
Safeguarding a top priority
Safeguarding is, understandably, at the top of the education recruitment compliance list. When placing any candidates into schools, recruitment businesses need to adhere to specific safeguarding and child protection criteria.
As an overview, all staffing companies providing services to education establishments must protect children and vulnerable adults, demonstrating best practice, by:
- demonstrating their commitment to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and vulnerable adults
- having policies and processes in place that ensure candidates are recruited and selected in the most appropriate way
- ensure that candidate compliance documents are collected, verified and kept up to date
- preventing unsuitable people from working with children and vulnerable adults
- ensuring that all recruitment business staff receive appropriate training in statutory safeguarding obligations
- contributing to an effective partnership working between all those involved in providing safeguarding services for children
To truly highlight just how complex education recruitment compliance is, under the APSCo Compliance + criteria, we’ve identified 20 separate areas that require a number of strict safeguarding checks that need to be carried out prior to any placement. This includes having written policies or procedures in place that show evidence of a robust method for identifying relevant changes in law and clear communication plans to distribute messaging relating to these changes, evidence of eligibility to work in the UK, proof of ID and residence, robust reference checking, DBS check results and much more.
The key to getting safeguarding compliance right in this instance is careful planning and the implementation of robust policies. There are sources of information that recruiters can use, but seeking one-on-one advice or specialist training for your business and its consultants really will be vital.
Beyond the expected
Aside from the required compliance procedures, there are also more general steps that staffing companies can – and arguably should – take. And while we are very much focusing on the education sector here, many of these steps are relevant for any staffing company.
Those firms with supply teachers out on assignments should have an open channel of communication with the candidate and client that is regularly used. While following the appropriate steps prior to a placement will eliminate many of the risks – provided strict process are followed – once on assignment there could be incidents or events that have the potential to change circumstances and would require action from the staffing company either immediately or ahead of the next placement. But without being on-site, it can be difficult to find this information out. As a result, it should be part of your best practice approach to regularly communicate with all parties involved in a placement.
As mentioned above, continuous compliance training for staff should also form part of a staffing company’s processes. Also consider how your firm can demonstrate its commitment to best practice to the end client. As a case in point, the APSCo Compliance + standard that is required of education recruitment members sees businesses regularly audited to ensure they are adhering to not only DfE regulations, but also the best practice standards that have been outlined in conjunction with external stakeholders such as the National Association of Head Teachers, VOICE, SGOSS (the Governors Association), the Association of School & College Leaders and the National Association of School Business Managers. And with access to legal advisors, those organisations that have achieved this professional accreditation are able to not only stay on top of the relevant compliance standards, but also demonstrate to end-hirers that they go above the standards expected of them.
Health and safety compliance standards
While the above compliance actions are centred on protecting those that teaching professionals come into contact with, education recruiters also have a duty of care to the teachers they place, specifically supply teachers. When sending these temporary staff out to various sites, recruitment firms are expected to ensure they are going into a safe environment. Schools will, understandably, have health and safety policies in place that supply teachers will need to be aware of. However, Covid-19 has created a real health and safety challenge for schools, supply teachers and recruiters alike.
With supply teachers moving from site to site, there is a greater risk that they will be exposed to the virus, which is understandably a concern for both the individual and their employer. The big challenge, though, is that there is no clear guidance regarding supply teacher access to rapid tests or even a clear consensus that they should be high up the vaccination list.
For staffing companies, it’s not obvious who needs to own this issue. Ultimately it is down to the DfE and the education sector itself to push for testing and vaccination of students and personnel working in the sector, but supply teachers aren’t currently being adequately captured in these plans. It is APSCo’s view that recruitment businesses should be able to access rapid tests for supply teachers and that they should be contacted to supply details of registered, active supply teachers for vaccination purposes. We are working with the DfE to address the health and safety compliance concerns with supply teacher recruitment at the moment.
Staying compliant: don’t go it alone
Compliance in education recruitment is highly complex and the above only really scratches the surface of the requirements that companies must abide by. But considering that the risks of getting it wrong are so great in this field, it really is important that staffing companies don’t attempt to tackle this alone.
Perhaps more importantly, though, compliance should absolutely be part of your day-to-day operations. Implementing the right procedures from day one is just the first step in the process and the ability to regularly review and update policies according to regulatory changes will be crucial to delivering compliant solutions. And with the world of recruitment and employment law continuously adapting in a Covid-hit landscape, implementing this now is arguably more important than it’s ever been.