Digital HR: remote hiring and onboarding of staff

Posted on May 28, 2020
Posted by Frankie Mundy

Businesses are likely to have faced numerous HR issues during the coronavirus pandemic, from furloughing staff, to getting to grips with legislative changes to statutory sick pay and annual leave rights. As the dust begins to settle and many businesses look to a prolonged period of home working, now may be an appropriate time to take stock and consider how routine HR processes should be adapted to remote working. We’ve set out some key considerations below when your business is recruiting remotely and carrying out remote onboarding of staff, including flagging important changes to legally required right to work checks. 


Remote recruitment

Whilst some businesses may have put a freeze on hiring as they struggle under the impact of COVID-19, others may need to increase their numbers due to a surge in demand for their services. If you are thinking about hiring, make sure you review your usual procedures and consider what changes may need to be made to accommodate a remote hiring process.

Things you’ll need to bear in mind include:



1. Advertising the job

Remember to specify that the job will be performed remotely on a temporary or permanent basis, providing your rationale for this. If the role will only involve working from home on a temporary basis, give an approximate timeframe for this if possible. See our Q&A on advertising a job for guidance about what other information you should include.


2. Interview process

Remember that it’s likely that the recruitment process may be more drawn out if you are conducting the process remotely; for example, virtual interviews may make it more difficult for you to get to know someone. You may also want to adapt your usual process by asking additional questions to gauge an applicant’s experience of and adaptability to home working. Either way, make sure the interviewers are familiar with your equal opportunities policy and ensure that they do not ask questions which may lead to claims of discrimination being made against your business. 


3. Selection tests

You may wish to ask job applicants to carry out certain tests, such as practical assessments to help you to understand how they would perform tasks and communicate while working remotely. Remember that if you are doing so, the tests should be the same for all candidates (unless you need to make reasonable adjustments for a disabled applicant). For further guidance about incorporating tests into your selection process, see our Q&A on selecting and interviewing job applicants.


Right to work checks during remote onboarding

You are legally required to check that everyone you employ has the right to work in the UK and you should make your job offers conditional on this. See our Q&A on background checks for further information and template offer letters you can use. 

The normal process for carrying out a right to work check requires employers to see a prospective staff member in person in order to verify their identity. Given the difficulties employers are likely to face in doing so safely during the pandemic, particularly while they are carrying out remote onboarding, the Government has temporarily adjusted the process for carrying out checks from 30 March 2020. Note, however, that if you use this process, you will need to ensure that they carry out a retrospective check within 8 weeks of the temporary measures ending (the date for which is yet to be announced). 

The adjusted process varies according to whether you are carrying out an online check or a manual check; see our Q&A on Background checks on job applicants for guidance about when you can use the online service: 


1. Online right to work checks

If you are carrying out an online right to work check during the pandemic, to enable you to verify the individual’s identity remotely, you should log in to the service whilst you are on a live video call (eg via Zoom or Skype) with the individual whose record you are checking.


2. Manual right to work checks

If you are carrying out a manual right to work check, you can ask the individual whose status you are checking to send you a scanned copy or a photo of their identity documents (rather than you seeing the originals). You should then check these via a video call with the individual, asking them to hold their documents to the camera for you to check against the scanned copy. When completed, you should make a record of the date you carried out the check and mark it with “adjusted check undertaken on [insert date] due to COVID-19”. 

Once the temporary measures come to the end and you are carrying out a retrospective check, you must make that check with “the individual’s contract commenced on [insert date]. The prescribed right to work check was undertaken on [insert date] due to COVID-19.”

For full guidance about carrying out right to work checks, including via the adjusted process, see our Q&A on Background checks on job applicants


Remote onboarding

You’ve found the perfect candidate for the role and their start date has arrived, but your workplace is still closed so you need to conduct remote onboarding. You’ll need to scrap the usual workplace tour and think about how you can integrate your new staff member virtually. Here’s some tips for things to think about:


1. Completing HR paperwork electronically

You’re likely to need your new starter to sign different HR documents, such as their employment contract and your staff handbook. To save your staff from having to print and sign hard copies (bearing in mind that they may not have a printer at home), consider providing them with access to an electronic signing app (eg DocuSign). Remember that there’s certain information that you are legally required to give to employees and casual workers on or before their first day of work; for more guidance about what HR documentation and information you should give to new starters see our Q&A on staff handbooks and staff contracts


2. Providing IT support and equipment remotely

Check that your new starter has all the equipment that they need for their first day; you’re not legally obliged to provide any equipment, but for different considerations to bear in mind see our Q&A on staff working from home. Make sure IT support is on hand to help them set up and access your business’s remote working systems, and provide them with a copy of your relevant policies such as your IT security and data protection policies. Consider whether it would be appropriate for you to provide additional training on these policies and/or manuals on how to use your systems; this will help to protect your business from any cyber attacks and/or data breaches. Remember that your HR policies may need to be adapted to take account of the current circumstances; for further guidance see our Q&A on working from home


3. Making them feel welcome 

With no desk space for colleagues to stop by and say hello or casual catch-ups by the coffee machine, you’ll need to take the initiative and set up virtual meet and greets and team meetings to help your new starter integrate into the team. Consider designating someone in your team to act as either a liaison or mentor for your new joiner during remote onboarding. Providing peer support may help them to integrate them into your organisation’s culture in a less formal way.


4. Conduct virtual training

Think about how you will go about training your new joiner when you can’t meet with them face-to-face. For example, could you record software demos to explain how your business uses it, or use screen-share functions on video-conferencing apps like Zoom. 


5. Set short and long-term goals and objectives

Your new starter will need clear objectives right from the outset and you should check in regularly to see how they’re getting on and that they have all of the resources and contacts that they need. Consider creating a checklist for your new joiner covering all of the different systems they will need to familiarise themselves with, key individuals they will need to meet (virtually) and training tasks that they should complete. This will help to provide some initial focus as they familiarise themselves with your business and the role. 


6. Ask for feedback on your remote onboarding exercise!

With home working here to stay for many for the foreseeable future, you’re likely to have to carry out further remote onboarding of staff in the future. Refine your process by asking your new starter for feedback once they’ve settled in; what improvements could you make, is there anything else they think might have helped them to integrate and get to know your business more quickly? Someone who has been through the process will be best placed to help your business iron out any wrinkles.

Remember that your staff records should include details about any recruitment exercises your staff participated in and what training and induction exercises they received when they joined your business. 

The content in this article is up to date at the date of publishing. The information provided is intended only for information purposes, and is not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Sparqa Legal’s Terms of Use apply.