It’s time to back recruitment industry accreditation

Since government licensing ended in 1994 the recruitment industry has been without a binding standard

In its place the only general rules on the conduct of recruitment businesses have been developed by trade associations. However, their codes are limited to the membership they represent.

With the proliferation of recruitment pathways and growing talent shortages in some sectors, there has never been a greater need for an independent industry accreditation to benchmark, educate, and ensure quality practice.

Understandably competing priorities and budget challenges can sometimes muddy the waters for recruitment agencies. In the NHS, for example, hiring managers can struggle to find enough suitably qualified staff to treat patients. If they can’t source those workers through approved agencies they may feel they have no option but to consider candidates from businesses not on the list, who may not operate to the same levels of conduct.

Similarly, in the education sector, schools have a safeguarding duty when hiring teachers and support staff. Yet the chief executive of Children, Families and Adult Services in Cambridgeshire recently said there is a concern that safeguarding rules in recruitment are not always being followed.

The government has made it clear it has ruled out any return to licensing for the sector. So it’s up to the recruitment industry itself to respond to the concerns of organisations and pressured sectors, and protect and enhance our reputation.

There are some 18,000 recruitment businesses in the UK and it’s a sector enjoying phenomenal growth. Compliance and quality are now the mantra, and it’s a given that the practice of recruitment introduction and supply needs good self-governance. To meet this I believe all hirers and candidates would welcome an independent universal accreditation that defines a benchmark of best practice in recruitment based on fair, ethical and compliant operating standards. Because of this belief I have been involved in creating such an accreditation.

The thinking behind it is that standards in recruitment should be set by a committee of HR and agency stakeholders, with compliance independently validated and audited so as to be properly accountable. It would be good for the industry and would deliver commercial value for accredited recruitment businesses. It would also offer peace of mind to hirers, especially those who have to be above reproach in their candidate choices.

In order for such an accreditation to be widely adopted an inclusive, collaborative spirit is needed and it’s HR and procurement managers who are in the strongest position to lead the charge. I would welcome a dialogue with those managers, to work together on standards in recruitment.

Adrian Marlowe is director at Standards in Recruitment, managing director of Lawspeed and chairman of the Association of Recruitment Consultancies

To get involved with Marlowe’s campaign please email


This article first appeared in HR Magazine – 15th December 2015

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