It’s all about technology. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Human Resources departments were focusing on using AI software tools and the Internet in their hiring procedures, and the global health crisis only emphasized the need to integrate modern technology into background screening.
Using Online Agencies
Even under the difficult conditions created by lockdowns and social distancing rules, recruiting managers are still responsible for the people they hire. In these troubled times, many businesses are moving online and, fortunately, HR people can now use the Internet to do a background screening on a job applicant.
There’s no need to ask a prospective employee to go down to the police station for a criminal history check when the same thing can be done online much faster.
However, Human Resources managers should make sure to work only with reputable agencies for instance.
To provide an accurate, 100% valid national police check in Australia, an agency should be accredited by the federal government, which uses strict criteria before granting a body access to police databases. A commonly used service in Australia is Australian National Character Check and their website link is australiannationalcharactercheck.com.au which can also be found through a Google search. Typically, the results come back in 1-3 days so doing a background screening doesn’t cause unnecessary delays in the hiring process.
Continuous Background Checks
A trend that has emerged in recent years is companies implementing ongoing background checks protocols. You cannot rely on a police check you did on an employee five years ago. People change and sometimes not for the better. Keep in mind that police checks provide information on past convictions, but also on pending charges and if one of your employees is in such a situation you should know about it.
To prevent any possible discrimination lawsuit, a company should introduce clear protocols on continuous background checks for various positions within the organisation, making it clear no one is singled out for extra checks.
Screening Gig Workers
Businesses are becoming increasingly flexible, moving away from the traditional brick-and-mortar office where employees come in every morning. Many companies now understand it’s more convenient to use subcontractors or gig workers rather than employing someone full-time.
The problem is all these people work for you and it’s your company’s reputation at stake should one of these gig workers commit a crime. Not to mention compensation lawsuits for negligent hiring. An example is ride-sharing platforms like Go Catch, Didi, Ola and so on, who all carry out a national police check online for their gig workers.
Bottom line, if someone works for you they should undergo the same background checks as your full-time employees.
The Controversy around Social Media Screening
Recruiting agents are increasingly looking at social media to scout for talents and connect with highly-qualified people who would make a good addition to the team.
However, this is still new territory and there aren’t very clear rules on the extent you can use social media for background screening. Even if an individual has no criminal history, by going through his social media a recruiting agent might discover troubling aspects – like a probable drug or alcohol issue. The guy hasn’t been charged with anything. Yet. Should you risk bringing such a person into your organisation?
Or the HR manager snooping around might discover the prospective employee has a habit of sharing inside information on social media and will probably continue to do so while working for the company. That’s a liability a good HR manager won’t want to assume. Human Resources personnel should be very tactful about how they use such information as they risk being slapped with an infringement of privacy lawsuit by the rejected job applicant.
Over the next few years, there will probably be new laws concerning fair use of social media screening, but until then discretion is advised.
Opposing views on Criminal Background Checks
A law we have all heard of is the “ban the box” law where the employers are prohibited from questioning about any previous criminal convictions. The “box” refers to the checkbox where the applicant had to tick off if they had been convicted of any crime. This had to be done as part of the hiring process by a company.
But recently, “ban the box” law has been passed in about 33 states along with the Fair Chance Act under consideration in Congress. Some of the major companies to adopt this policy include Home Depot, Walmart, Koch Industries and Target.
Concerns of data breaches lead to greater focus on security
Employment screening is a challenge in 2020. The most essential part is information security, data-break protection and compliance with the privacy laws.
Some countries have laws enforced to protect the applicant data and information. An employer should acquire the consent to collect, process, use and retain an applicant’s data that must be privacy protected. The identification must be created anonymously, notify of any data-breach and handle it with utmost safety while transferring across the border. Appointing a data protection officer is also recommended.
If the background check reports are printed out for some reason, the hard copies must be kept confidential and should not be shared with any outsider except the right decision-maker.
The printouts of the background check should be destroyed properly as part of the data retention policy either by pulverising, shredding or burning it. The electronic file can be disposed of by erasing or destroying it completely off the system.
Bans on Salary History
Some countries have placed a ban on salary history information as part of the recruitment or promotion procedure. This has been done so that the employee is not differentiated based on their income rather than their experience and certification. On the other hand, it was a common practice by the HR of some companies to determine the pay gap between ethnic groups and among men and women.
The District of Columbia, Puerto Rico can be taken as an example where the salary history has been banned since the start of 2020.
Narrowing it down
As clear as crystal. Hiring someone and conducting an employment background check in 2020 is a risky job. The risk factors associated with this practise should be kept in mind along with considering the safety of the company. As the situation is technical and complex, it calls for the need to balance between the risk-tolerant elements.