While many businesses and sectors have suspended hiring altogether during the coronavirus outbreak, for essential workers, recruitment has not only continued, but in some cases has also increased. Nowhere is this more relevant than in health care, where a steady stream of workers has been needed in order to fight against COVID-19.

In addition to health services, online retail and logistics firms are in need of staff to ensure that distribution can carry on without disruption. Supermarket workers are in high demand, and the gig economy still needs people to meet the needs of consumers who require services while under lockdown.

Furthermore, as we emerge from the lockdown, industries such as construction and manufacturing are beginning to get back on their feet and start hiring again as the country looks to kick-start the economy.

However, a critical step in the hiring of any workers is background screening. With essential workers dealing with one of the most high-stakes situations the country has faced, it’s crucial that effective, robust background checks can be processed with speed and efficiency.

With checks for key workers often lengthy, and in most instances, requiring face to face verification, this has presented a number of challenges. Here’s what businesses need to bear in mind, along with some of the ways that we’ve facilitated the quick turnaround of background checks at Sterling without compromising on thoroughness and compliance.

Necessary steps

It goes without saying that all the necessary prerequisites for performing robust background checks need to be carried out, with legal compliance still a key factor. However, a strong focus on candidate experience and making sure that there are no discrepancies in the processes between screening on-site workers and remote workers is also key, as many new hires in non-essential industries are likely to be working remotely.


With a research paper citing that even during normal business operations, just 60% of companies conduct checks on contingent or remote workers compared to 89% of organisations choosing to screen full time staff – it’s more important than ever that this imbalance is addressed.


As always, GPDR and all other data protection laws, along with the Equality Act 2010 are still in force. This means that the likes of social media checks must be carried out with privacy and protected characteristics being taken into account to avoid any breaches. Ultimately, businesses must ensure that they do not sacrifice quality for speed, despite the growing sense of urgency.


Working together

Many providers are taking further initiatives and pulling resources together in order to help facilitate the necessary background screening effectively and cohesively during this time. For example, following announcements from the Home Office and the DBS of measures to temporarily provide Standard and Enhanced DBS checks and fast-track emergency screening of the adults’ and children’s barred lists, we have decided to waive any admin fees charged to process enhanced DBS checks for specific key workers.

All fees from these checks will be donated directly to the British Red Cross to support their response to the coronavirus emergency. This applies to healthcare and social care workers being recruited in connection with the care and treatment of COVID-19 in England and Wales.

Increased efficiency

In addition to this, to increase efficiency, our recently developed  ‘ID as a service’ product, which has been adopted by Costa Coffee to support the company’s Right to Work process, will help to streamline the hiring process by making use of innovative facial recognition technology.

By allowing candidates to provide a ‘selfie’ along with a photo of their official documents, the two are instantly cross-referenced, bypassing the often-lengthy face to face interaction needed to complete background checks.

This efficiency in screening will be even more important following the economic impact of the coronavirus. When hiring volumes eventually increase, it will allow business to conduct large scale, compliant background checks for new hires quickly and compliantly.

Unprecedented times

Ultimately, these are unprecedented times for everyone, and the crucial objective for individuals and businesses right now is to do everything they can to support others through this global crisis. In order to create environments of trust and safety in this climate, robust background checks are a must. Therefore, we felt that waiving the fees for DBS checks and rolling out our ‘ID as a service’ product were important initiatives for us to introduce at this time.

The main priority at the moment is to ensure compliant checks can be carried out, without any limitations. While this is especially key for essential industries, in order for the UK economy to get back on its feet as we emerge from lockdown – this must happen across the board.