A Growing Remote Workforce Leads to Growing I-9 Compliance Issues

ThinkstockPhotos-146737692As the nature of the workforce continues to change, a large and growing number of individuals are working remotely. This ongoing shift is due to a number of factors, such as economic trends, technology developments and evolving employee needs and expectations. As staffing firms and their clients continue to look toward cutting costs, optimizing their programs and processes, and generally doing more with less, a growing remote workforce is going to require more attention to manage effectively.

So, what makes the remote workforce so appealing? For one, embracing the model can lead to numerous efficiencies for companies and staffing firms, giving access to top talent at lower costs. Moreover, technological advancements have enabled companies to build robust technology platforms that embrace mobile communication and sharing tools that allow for more flexible work options for employees. Additionally, many employees today are demanding more work-life balance, and increasingly seek greater flexibility and expanded options when looking for a new position.

As staffing firms look to acquire new clients and process new candidates, it is important to minimize any barriers and limitations related to geography. It is becoming more critical for staffing firms to remain competitive by targeting and attracting clients on a strategic level, and not based on location, ensuring access to qualified talent wherever they are. As employees increasingly value and expect work-life flexibility, staffing firm clients look to extend their workplace virtually to ensure they find and retain the best talent.

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This changing flexible work environment does create a number of workforce management challenges, including those that relate to keeping their remote candidates and workforce compliant. Form I-9 requirements in particular represent significant compliance challenges as the staffing firm onboards a new remote candidate. Many of these potential issues and risks relate to having the Form I-9 completed accurately and efficiently to meet the strict requirements, as to avoid any potential fines. The average fine for errors on a Form I-9 is around $935 per incident, and with such active hiring practices, these fines can amount quickly for staffing firms.  What can be done, then, to minimize the risk and improve the overall onboarding process?

Key steps staffing firms can take to ensure a “good faith effort” for complying with Form I-9 requirements include:

  • Standardizing processes: With a detailed, uniform remote hiring process and documentation of a standard operating procedure (SOP), it will be easy to not only meet the growing demand for remote work arrangements, but also to do so compliantly. For instance, having a designated authorized representative to complete Section 2 of Form I-9 can ensure consistency and minimize the chance for errors.
  • Knowledge transfer: The ability to pass information, best practices and guidance to those authorized representatives to ensure Section 2 is completed correctly is essential to any successful remote I-9 process.
  • Adopt the right technology: A good electronic platform can help to provide added security, visibility and compliance, while simplifying the overall remote hiring process. A comprehensive platform can also minimize costly mistakes and errors through field validation tools, while enabling centralized control for improved management and reporting.

The challenges of remote I-9 compliance are real – and so are the consequences for organizations that don’t comply. Just consider the example of a staffing firm in Minnesota that was recently fined more than $200,000 for 243 violations of the Immigration and Naturalization Act, including failure to appropriately examine Form I-9 documents. The lesson is that an employee’s Form I-9 must be viewed and assessed by the person completing Section 2 of the form, which can be a challenge for companies hiring remote employees. Yet, working with a partner that can provide access to agents spread across the country to help complete Form I-9 and offer a comprehensive technology platform to streamline the process, will help any company ensure an efficient and compliant approach to onboarding remote employees.

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Lou Reavis

Lou Reavis
Lou Reavis has more than 25 years of experience in the Staffing Industry. As staffing vertical business leader at Equifax Workforce Solutions, she is responsible for setting the overall strategy and marketing plan for the staffing vertical.

Lou Reavis

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