One of the significant challenges when recruiting staff into the social care sector has been securing an appropriate reference which gives a provider confidence that the employee is a suitable candidate and has not been involved in any inappropriate conduct which would make them unsuitable to work in a social care setting. My view is this existing system doesn't work effectively so I am pleased the DBS has launched a consultation about safer recruitment practice.
Often, a standard from reference which confirms an employee's job title and dates of employment is all you get. Standard from references are also regularly agreed as part of settlement agreements. So how do you identify when a standard from reference is of concern and does it tell you enough to be satisfied the person should be appointed?
In one recent case I dealt with, a standard form reference had been given by a former employer and the employee was appointed on the back of that. During the employment, a comment about the employee's time at their former employer lead the employer to follow up with the former employer and ask if there was anything else they should be aware of. The former employer revealed, without agreeing for it to be shared, that the employee had in fact left with significant allegations against her but that a reference had been agreed as part of a settlement agreement and therefore they couldn't make a public comment. This was a difficult situation to navigate which could have been avoided with a better, sector-wide, approach to references.
My view is that a new system should be introduced across the sector where prospective employees are always asked to disclose the reasons for leaving their former employment and to warrant that they were not under investigation for or subject to any disciplinary sanction relation to their conduct at the time of their dismissal (and if they were to provide detail).
I believe such an approach should become a standard part of recruitment practice and that the prospective employee should then be required to consent to the prospective employer approaching the last employer for them to confirm or deny the accuracy of the employee warranty.
This ensures the reference giver doesn't have to strike a difficult balance where there are untested allegations and forces the employee to give an honest and open account. To work well it needs to become a sector-wide practice with former employers agreeing to respond.
If you agree this would be a good idea do feed it into the consultation. Further details can be reached here.
Gathering effective references for staff working in social care and health settings has always been an essential part of safe and fair recruitment, but many employers experience challenges in obtaining and providing them. Some employers refuse to complete references, others provide insufficient information and sometimes, appropriate ‘evidence of conduct’ is not provided, which is legally required by the Care Quality Commission.