Outsourcing compliance makes it easier for businesses to manage the burden of exploding regulations.
It also makes it easier for them to not follow them properly.
Being something of a flighty freelancer, PPW finds himself “onboarding” with new clients, or back with previous clients, on a fairly regular basis. Being something of a work/life balance motivated (i.e. lazy) freelancer, PPW also often finds himself having to account for the gaps in his work history when he does.
When you combine our ever-increasing nanny state cosseted world with the populist disdain for big business, especially big financials, it should come as no surprise that over the last few years the background checks for new and returning bodies have grown ever more onerous.The last time I went through it was the first time I’ve had to dig out and dust off my degree certificate in the 20 years since I earned it, as they now want proof of my qualifications in addition to proof of the two decades of professional history that render them completely useless. Along with my passport, utility bills and bank statements I anticipate the day not too far off when a sperm sample and DNA screening will be required before they let me through the door.
The out-of-control expansion of bureaucracy and personal intrusion has little power to shock these days. The half-assed way it’s done though can occasionally raise an eyebrow or two.
Driving a bus through the business
Apparently, the point of scrutinising career gaps is to ensure you weren’t hired-and-fired by someone else, dealing with materially relevant ill health or perhaps detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure over that time, and are trying to hide it from your future mortgage-payer.
This is, of course, symptomatic of the growth in the “presumption of guilt until proven innocent” mentality, which either because we don’t care enough or we are too wearied by it, we no longer seem to fight back against. Fair enough, it is what it is, but it does throw up a few challenges for the accused. I can prove a positive, but how do I prove a negative? How do I establish I was just sitting on my ass or playing with my boat for a few months while the money from my last gig was running down?
My screeners are an outsourced bunch used by a growing number of large UK financials. And, since they specialise in managing this sort of complexity for multiple clients, they’ve come across this situation many times before (several times just with me). So they are at least prepared with a couple of “if all else fails” solutions to my plight.
My choices are either to send them copies of my bank statements covering the period in question (establishing that I didn’t have any income or curious expenditure), or to visit a solicitor and swear an oath accounting for what I was doing over that time.
I’d offer you a minute to think about those two options for catching the criminal mastermind in the act, but I doubt you need one!
Taking the first, aside from being a piss-taking intrusion into my private life, like many people I have multiple bank accounts (less I suspect than most criminals do though) so I could just give them statements from a clean one.
As to the second, well if I were the dodgy type I’d hardly turn a hair at lying on oath.Point out how totally useless these checks are to the desk-monkey running them (and increasingly bored with yours) and you’ll get a response ranging from a disinterested grunt of agreement through to positive encouragement to just do what it takes to get the box ticked (whatever your nefarious motives may be and whatever subterfuge you employ to do it). Point it out to your hiring manager when you turn up on site and you’ll get a response ranging from a giggle to a guffaw. It’s all “as per” after all. They’re all so far removed from the idiots who orchestrate this sort of thing to either care or to do anything about it if they did.
Which makes me wonder about the idiots who orchestrate this sort of thing in the first place. I rather think they wouldn’t care either. In fact, I rather think they’re not all that dumb after all.
The driver of the bus
Both in their volume and in their velocity of change, regulations are an exploding burden on big business and so is the burden of complying with them. Outsourcing compliance to a specialist third-party leverages shared expertise, spreads the cost and lightens the load of keeping on top of it going forwards.
It makes perfect business sense.
But the benefits don’t stop there. In our 24/7 news culture with its frenzied passion for beating down popular whipping boys, big businesses and especially big financials fear the reputational damage of getting it wrong like never before. If you’ve outsourced the responsibility in good faith not only have you bought yourself a cheaper deal but you’ve bought yourself a pass if it all goes wrong as well.And so it seems to me that it doesn’t really matter if you can drive a bus through the checks and balances being run on your behalf, because you’ve someone else to throw under the bus if it all goes wrong.
A crumb of comfort perhaps for our beleaguered big businesses, though perhaps not so much for the man in the street who may one day become its victim.
Sex education is a young man’s rite-of-passage
So too, for some of us, was not understanding it
I was at the vanguard of modern sex education, or at least the vanguard of it in my high school. Deprived the realities of “human reproduction” the years prior to mine had to make do with being taught the bedroom activities of rabbits (which thinking about our older boys explained rather a lot).
But it wasn’t to be so for me and my peers. The last of the nuns that had ruled the roost for oh-so-long had finally given way to a new generation of headmaster and for the first time the new boys of 1984 were to be given the unabashed and unvarnished truth.
Well, if their parents signed the permission slip that is.
My parents like most others, chary in equal measure of standing out from the crowd and of having to suffer this embarrassing rite-of-passage conversation with their adolescent offspring themselves, dutifully signed.
Which is how, at the age of eleven, a naïve and late-developing PPW, found himself in a classroom with thirty of his little friends being introduced to the world of sex in all its apparently joyless glory.
The “meat” of this lesson was an A4 printed sheet containing the classic cut-out drawing of the “male” and “female” “genitalia” “in coitus” coupled with several paragraphs of explanatory text with a selection of blanked out words we were to fill-in as the story unfolded. It’s a testament perhaps to the naivety of even the most advanced members of this Roman Catholic class of 1984 that not a single obscenity was found scribbled into any of those blanks.I believe this factsheet to have been written by our science master, a gawky twenty-something who I suspect hadn’t the practical experience nor university training to back this particular lesson up. It was distinctly meritorious in two key regards. First of all he had managed to write a page about “sexual intercourse” without letting a single suggestion of pleasure get anywhere near it. Secondly he used some of the clumsiest and most awkward prose I’ve read outside of the Literary Review’s bad sex shortlist. His fiery red blushes burned through every sentence.
The audience for that lesson were a mixture of kids who already knew it and kids who weren’t nearly ready for it. We all develop at different speeds and sex education isn’t really something you can effectively schedule on a random Wednesday in May for two-and-a-half dozen kids thrown together by nothing more than geography, demography and received religiosity.
Afterwards outside the classroom the boys who already knew it all gathered to snigger and giggle while the unready slinked by keeping our, er, reservations to ourselves, save for one boy who marked himself for life by exclaiming “Well, I’m never doing THAT with a girl!” as he stalked off.
And I kept my reservations ’til puberty kicked in and my first shot at third base came to pass. While they remained, I have to admit, they troubled me more than somewhat.
Devoid of informative adjectives, lest any hint of physical pleasure be revealed unto us, the textures and touch of the anatomical components of that associated artwork sparked my first doubt. That drawing of male and female junk snugly entwined left me with the impression that girls were harbouring a rigid, bell-end shaped chamber inside of them in which an unsuspecting chap could quite easily find himself trapped.
I was a little concerned about what one would do if this were to occur, and the image of myself and my partner crabbing stark-naked into the nearest A&E to get our coupling de-coupled bothered me pretty much until the day that first curious, exploring hand found its way to third-base.
My second worry was born entirely of the clumsy prose in the explanatory text. I don’t remember the words exactly but one phrase troubled me until puberty finally struck. It ran something like “the penis is stimulated by the male beforehand to an erect state.” I read “stimulated” as a verb and wondered why the associated instructions for stimulating it weren’t included in the accompanying notes.Perhaps we didn’t get told that bit until we were sixteen?
Whatever the reason I seemed to be missing a valuable piece of the instruction manual for my junk and it left me pretty much shag-phobic until puberty came around. I was haunted by angst-ridden visions of my first time; the girl lying naked on my bed would coyly invite me to “go away and get my erection” and I would dutifully clomp off to the toilet to perform this secret male ritual with no idea how to do it.
Fortunately it wasn’t long before Mother Nature’s prose taught me what my Science Master’s had failed to. Stimulating it wasn’t going to be a problem. Keeping it un-stimulated was the challenge.
What was awkward, uncomfortable and troubling at the time is now little more than a stock anecdote, a favourite story for a seedy forty-something keen to kill a bit of time over a pint by demonstrating that I wasn’t always the way I am now. It’s all part of growing up after all. Or so it was for alumni of the school of hard-knocks, from back in the days when kids were allowed to feel bad about stuff, before last place trophies, before running to teacher at the faintest whiff of bullying and before the days of lavish shop-bought school-play costumes lest anyone tease you for being poorer than the other kids.
Back when preparing kids for adulthood including letting them learn how to deal with feeling bad. The school of hard-knocks seems to have closed its doors now.
And I’m kinda glad I graduated before it did.