Terror attacks demonstrate human resources department’s key role

HR found itself at the heart of the war on terror last week after key suspects arrested in connection with the failed car bomb attacks in London and Glasgow were revealed to have come to the UK to work in the NHS.

Sian Thomas, deputy director of trust representative body NHS Employers, told Personnel Today: “If anyone in HR thinks their job is back-room or non-core, this shows just how critical it is.

“By not following recruitment guidelines, our HR staff could put the lives of patients and the general public at risk.”

Thomas insisted NHS recruitment procedures were robust, but welcomed a review announced by prime minister Gordon Brown, and said the organisation would implement any extra measures deemed necessary.

Steve Bailey, managing director of employee screening firm Background Checking, said the NHS faced huge challenges trying to ensure consistent practices across the sprawling organisation, which employs about 2.7 million people.

He said recruitment practices across the UK made the nation a soft touch for terrorists, as only one in 10 organisations use specialist screening firms to vet potential employees, compared with more than seven in 10 in the US.

Bailey insisted that HR professionals had a duty to the British public to go to all reasonable lengths to avoid hiring potential terrorists.

“Companies should use best practice because they have a social responsibility,” he told Personnel Today. “Employers have a duty to the public to be strict on who they employ. It is often not employers that are at risk – it is customers and the public.”

Bailey added that Criminal Records Bureau checks were just the beginning of an effective employee screening programme. Background Checking looks at election rolls, postal redirects, mortality registers and Interpol, as well as using a high-tech scanner that checks passports in three different lights for signs of tampering.

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