Recruiters under fire over security clearance

Industry is joining forces with the Cabinet Office to stop recruiters insisting that IT contractors have valid and relevant security clearance before being offered the role.

Experts at PCG, the freelancers' group, and REC, the recruiters' group said they were helping officials with agencies' "sticking points" to guidance handed down in 2007.

The main one being that "too many" contractors are still being asked for clearance in advance of their agent considering them, or even posting the role, PCG said.

This represents a breach of the guidance agreed with the Cabinet Office, the groups said, except where the placement is short-term or required at very short notice.

The practice is detrimental to contractors, and it harms clients by severely restricting the talent pool they can recruit from, explained PCG managing director John Brazier.

It also is a drag on productivity, signalled the REC, as it says any procurement process works best when all parts of the supply chain respond to each other's needs.

Cabinet Minister Angela Smith supported the industry's push for recruiters, and end clients, to think twice about demanding contractors have existing security clearance.

"National security vetting controls are important, but must be applied proportionately and fairly," the MP said.

"Where security clearances are necessary, an existing clearance should not be used as part of the selection criteria or inhibit access to jobs, except in rare cases where a contract is urgent or very short term."

Tom Hadley, a director at REC, agreed: "Contract jobs in sensitive areas may require a security clearance; however this should not be seen as a pre-requisite for the posting. In many cases clients can wait for a candidate to be cleared and it is important that these jobs are open to as many contractors as possible."

PCG said contract IT workers could now relay their concerns about security clearance directly to the Cabinet Office via vettinggroup@cabinet-office.x.gsi.gov.uk.

Speaking to CUK, Mr Brazier added: "At the same time the Cabinet Office has written to the biggest 250 agencies in the country to draw their attention to this issue and remind them to observe best practice as well as having the guidelines published on the website of the Office of Government Commerce."