Event roundup: Digitising employee screening

Event roundup: Digitising employee screening

After undergoing significant transformation over the past two years, our most recent Reed Screening event discussed the future of digitisation for employee screening, and the changes that were in progress to help make hiring faster, safer and more secure for employers and work seekers alike.

Presenting was:

Keith Rosser: Chair of the Better Hiring Institute and Director of Reed Screening

Helen Chandler: Head of Partnerships and Engagement, Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)

Eleanor Curry: Market Development Lead, Department for Science, Innovation and Technology

Why is digitisation needed?

Despite consistent progress towards digitisation of the employment process, manual checking is still required in a number of areas, and this causes difficulties for employers and job applicants. With the UK workforce changing and increasingly demanding greater flexibility, it’s vital that employers are able to keep up with the pace of change.

Streamlining processes is important, but it’s also vital to ensure that hiring processes are inclusive, and this requires not only speeding up the hiring process, but fully modernising and transforming it. Digitisation is one part of this, as is the Better Hiring Institute’s work to ensure that hiring processes are aligned with best practice across all industries.

What are the benefits of faster hiring?

The benefits of digitising hiring are profound. For employees, they could include the ability to live where they want and work anywhere, while for employers, they allow for a greatly increased recruitment pool, whether their teams are working remotely from home or via a hybrid model. This could help to boost employment levels in economic black spots across the UK, and could also be a useful tactic in supporting early retirees or those living with long term sickness back into the workforce on a flexible basis. Technologies such as digital reference checking could also help to improve inclusivity by moving away from the traditional CV-based hiring process, which can exclude those who are not well-versed in how to write CV’s, or for whom English is a second language.

The UK lags behind Europe and the USA in terms of hiring times – in the NHS, it takes an average of 60 days to get a person from job advert to their first day of work. Reducing hiring times has the potential to reduce workloads and help reduce backlogs and waiting lists in the NHS and in other industries, whilst boosting tax revenues by reducing the amount of time workseekers spend inactive.

What progress has been made on digitising hiring?

The UK has made significant progress over the past two years, from the introduction of digital Right to Work checks to the digitisation of criminal record checking, as well as the introduction of technologies such as Open Banking and automated reference checking to streamline the process of employment history verification. Instead of manually chasing references, employers can rely on powerful software to not only automatically remind employers to submit details, but to check reference details against a database of verified data to ensure that the references being provided are genuine.

However, there’s work still to be done. Ensuring the portability of data, so that applicants do not need to verify their details multiple times for each employer, as well as greater standardisation to remove red tape, particularly relating to sector-specific regulations and trade body requirements, could help speed up hiring further.

What are the negatives of digital hiring?

With any technological advances come challenges which must be addressed, and digital hiring is no exception.

In particular, we’re seeing a rise in fraud targeted towards employers who still rely on face-to-face routes for things like right to work verification, often using fake birth certificates which are easy to acquire and almost impossible to validate.

Reed Screening is also seeing a significant increase in fraudulent reference houses – that is, companies set up purely to supply false references. Additionally, there’s a rise in over-employment, with candidates taking on multiple remote jobs at once without informing their employers.

Closing loopholes like these is an important priority, although inclusivity must also be taken into account, allowing an assisted route for those who do not have the ability to use digital routes, whether due to a lack of documentation or a lack of digital knowledge.

The DBS digital identity process

One aspect of the employment screening process which has undergone significant transformation in recent years is criminal records checking. Identity verification for criminal records checking can now be submitted digitally, significantly speeding the process of carrying out these checks.

Identity verification is an extremely important aspect of DBS checking – because of the sensitivity of the information being provided, it’s vital that they’re matched to the right person. Because of this, there are two digital identity verification routes for DBS checks, dependent on the level of confidence required for the identity verification.

Basic DBS applications go through the government’s OneLogin programme, which verifies a candidate’s identity to a Medium level of confidence against the Digital Identity and Attributes Trust Framework. Standard or Enhanced DBS checks, on the other hand, require identity to be established to a High level of confidence, and so these checks are conducted through an IDSP.

Government developments to digital identity checking

This process is under continuous development, and Helen Chandler, Head of Partnerships and Engagement at the Disclosure and Barring Service, explained some of the improvements that were in progress. Amongst these, the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (who now have responsibility for Digital Identity in place of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport) are working to remove the legislative and regulatory blockers to allow candidates to verify their identity by checking against records held by DWP or HMRC – while this is currently not possible, it could provide a very secure method of proving identity, as well as opening up additional options for people who are unable to provide documents such as an in-date passport.

DSIT and DBS are also working towards the introduction of digital wallets allowing individuals to store a range of different data types together, from identity verification to qualifications, references and DBS checks. The NHS and the Department for Education are currently developing wallet systems, which have the potential to further streamline the checking process and make it much easier for healthcare or education employees to switch roles within their respective services.

Developments to the Trust Framework

The DSIT’s Digital Identity and Attributes Trust Framework is also undergoing further development. Currently in beta version, the level of uptake for the standard has been high, with 47 IDSP providers already certified in the first year after introduction and more in the pipeline.

The DSIT are currently in the process of developing proposals to remove legislative blockers to digital identity, as well as to introduce additional use cases beyond the three main live use cases – pre-employment, pre-rental, and criminal record checks – currently in place.

With a modular certification process allowing for easy integration with a range of services, DSIT predicts that its digital identity benchmarks could be used in a wide variety of alternate use cases, including mortgage applications, financial services, travel or accessing age-restricted services. With the current use cases predicted to benefit the UK economy to the tune of around £800m per year, the UK government is committed to promoting digital identity as a faster, simpler and more secure approach for individuals, whilst simultaneously allowing them to maintain a high level of protection over their data. 

Insights from our attendees

We took the opportunity to get a gauge of the experiences and opinions of our attendees.


How do you verify references currently?

Manually chasing by email and phone – 58%

Using a screening provider – 27%

Using automated software – 9%

None of the above – 4%


Has digitising the DBS process to date made it faster for you to hire?

Yes – 59%

No – 9%

Unsure – 32%


How fast is right to work checking now for your organisation?

0-5 minutes – 36%

Up to 1 day – 36%

Up to 1 week – 13%

Over a week – 13%


The vast majority of our event attendees currently chase candidate references manually, adding significantly to their hiring times. Technology like Reed Screening’s Instant Referencing software have the potential to significantly streamline hiring processes for many employers.

What’s next?

Digital hiring is a fast-moving area, with new developments happening all the time. Reed Screening is hosting regular events where you can keep up to date with the latest news and share your opinion on policy and process changes.  

Below are a few of the upcoming events you can get involved with: 


23rd November – Making UK hiring the fastest globally – Join us as we spotlight Reed Screenings’ collaborative campaigns with industry and the UK government to make UK hiring the fastest globally.  


7th December – 2023 roundup – our future in 2024Join us as we summarise key changes in 2023 and look ahead at what is coming for UK employers in 2024.