You’ve been chosen to fill a fab new role. Your cv sparkled, your interview technique was impressive, you passed all the tests and now… it’s paperwork time!
Getting onboard a new company can involve answering a lot of seemingly pedantic questions, being asked for documents you haven’t seen in decades, learning new systems, and signing lots of forms.
As Connected’s chief compliance monitor, I’ve seen hundreds of people into new roles now. Some are old hands and take everything in their stride; some are new to the game and are bemused by the sheer weight of (and reasons for) the paperwork required.
Bear in mind, you won’t be able to start your new job until all the checks required are complete. It may seem painful, but it is necessary – and if your onboarding is slow and delayed, so will your start date be.
So, I thought I’d put together some pointers, explanations and ideas to make your next and subsequent onboarding smoother and faster.
1. Don’t expect your employer to take your word for it
Everything you put on your CV has the potential to be checked – and in some detail. So, even before you apply for a job, be certain that everything on it is true and accurate. If your references don’t match the dates on your CV, it has to be flagged to the client and explained, so don’t be tempted to move end and start dates to close gaps in your employment!
If you’ve claimed a qualification, make sure you have the document to back it up. Will the job title you’ve put on your CV match the one the HR department of that employer has on file? Most problems around CV checks are caused by inaccuracies rather than dishonesty, but even these can cause headaches and delay onboarding. Genuinely dishonest claims (bumping your degree up a level, claiming a qualification that you didn’t complete, giving yourself your boss’s job title etc) will probably result in your appointment being cancelled. Plus it’s worth noting that if it comes to light after any amount of time you’ve already been working you are still more than likely to be fired for the dishonesty, regardless of how well you are performing in your role.
2. Right to Work – you may have to do it twice..
Employers need to check that you have the right to work in the UK. For permanent placements, this is most often done by your new employer prior to starting your new job, but sometimes we are contractually required to check your Right to Work earlier in the recruitment process.
For contractors, since we are the ones contracting with you, we need to do the check face-to-face. Since Covid, we can now do this online in a video call. Before that, you will be invited to submit documents or information to TrustID, a government-approved online checker we use. You will be asked to scan relevant documents (eg passport/visa) or provide a government sharecode (non-UK citizens).
If you are signing up to a new Umbrella firm for your contract, you will also be asked to do a Right to Work check by them.
Yes, it’s onerous, but it is necessary. Please don’t shoot the messenger! (https://www.gov.uk/check-job-applicant-right-to-work)
3. References – be prepared
References these days can be a minefield for those providing them and now tend to be given as statements of fact. Ie – Fred Blogs worked for Acme Industries as Compliance Manager between 1 April 1998 and 23 September 2000. Statements of fact are all that is required for written references, so the easiest place for compliance managers like me to obtain them is either from the HR department or, in the case of contractors, the employment agency through which the contract in question was delivered. Please note, as mentioned above, the dates and positions provided by the references need to be a match for what it says on your CV.
If you have those details to hand it really helps move things along. In my experience, references take the most time of all the onboarding checks to complete so the sooner they can be started, the better. If you worked for a small business and your ex-boss is the person who needs approaching, make sure you have their contact details and give them a heads-up to look out for the request. They will more likely act promptly, then, when the request comes in.
The amount of time or number of jobs needing referencing will vary from client to client. Even if it seems excessive to you, please be aware that the information requested is what is required by the client, your employer, and we are simply meeting their requirements.
4. Certificates – dig them out or get digital copies
I don’t know where my degree certificate is if I’m honest, and I’ve lost count of the people who’ve said that to me during the onboarding process. I onboarded one person whose mother had framed hers and had it hanging on her wall in Romania, which posed its own challenges!
Qualification certificates are nearly always requested for new starters, so it pays to be prepared. If you can’t find yours, go to the body who issued it and ask them for a digital copy. You will probably have to pay an admin fee, but once you have it, the prospect of rooting through the attic or talking your Mum through how to take a digital photo of it will recede and you will have something you can use again and again stored neatly in your Careers file, which leads me to my next point..
5. File all your documents in one place
I have onboarded some contractors in less than two hours (bar the physical document check). They are seasoned at the checks and have everything filed, ready to forward, including the contact details of their last employment agencies. In such cases, and by meeting them in the carpark before they enter the client’s building to check their Right to Work documents, these people have been able to start work the following day. By contrast, we have had to delay start dates where checks were outstanding, which is frustrating for everyone. It really does pay to be prepared.
6. Be prepared for personal checks
If you’re going to work in Finance, or any particularly sensitive area, you may need a DBS check and/or a Finance check. These kinds of check need your permissions to get started, so respond quickly to any request from your agency to provide the required information. DBS checks can take days or they can take months, depending on the backlog, so they need to be started as soon as possible.
7. Gaps in work history may need referencing
Some clients want to know why there might be gaps in your CV. Think carefully about leaving things out. Often, gaps of three months or more need to be explained, but sometimes (according to the client) shorter gaps may need referencing, too. Referencing gaps can be a very tricky thing to do. Passport stamps to show you’ve been travelling would work; online training certification and attendance audit, if you’ve been doing that; proof that you’ve been applying for jobs works well.
Just taking some time out to enjoy the garden and train your new puppy is harder to reference, though. This was the case with one of my contractors. Ultimately, we obtained a reference from a colleague at his previous job who had remained in touch with him and visited him and the puppy at home during the break, and was able to vouch for him to cover the period. Note, no one’s saying that you shouldn’t take breaks but be prepared for the question of who can reference those breaks. Another option might be your accountant, if you have one.
8. NDAs, attestations and other client-specific agreements – yes, there’s more!
Many clients will require signatures on NDAs and/or undertakings to follow a code of conduct, and/or confirmation that policy documents have been read. Although these are client requirements we often facilitate the communications and they still must be completed as part of onboarding.
9. You need to give us express permission to share your data
When we onboard people ourselves (rather than the client or an outsourced business doing it), naturally we will need to share the information we gather with the client at some point. Some of it, like your NI number, might need to be shared for their administration. Some of it may need to be submitted only as part of an auditing exercise (our clients can ask us at any time to show the checks we’ve conducted and the supporting documents). So, we have to ask you for your permission to share the information with the client, and often, with other third parties acting on their behalf in the recruitment or administrative process.
10. Contractor (extra) compliance
HMRC require us to do due diligence on the companies that we contract with, whether they be umbrella companies (and for that reason we have a Preferred Suppliers List that we ask our contractors to work through), or a Personal Service Company (PSC).
In either case, we have to ask the contractor whether they want to Opt Out of the Conduct Regulations. If so, with a PSC, the contractor will sign this twice, once as the Director of the PSC employing the contractor, and once as the contractor who will be delivering the service. For contractors working through umbrella firms, the umbrella signs as the employer.
For those operating through PSCs, we are obliged to check that the PSC is correctly constituted, so require a copy of the HMRC’s letter which provides the PSC with an Employer PAYE code.
For our contract, we also require that the contractor has a minimum 50% shareholding in the PSC, which we verify through Companies House.
A VAT certificate is required if we are to pay VAT; a declaration from the contractor that they are not registered for and do not intend to claim VAT is required if not.
For bank details, we request a screenshot or letter showing the bank details with the named PSC. We contract with the PSC, not directly with the contractor, and cannot pay into a personal account.
Insurance. Contractors working through their PSC will need to show the company is insured and are required to remain insured for one year following the end of their assignment. Contractors working through Umbrella firms are covered by their insurance policies.
I hope this helps you with your preparation for your new role – and if you have any questions, please feel free to ask!