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Employee Background Checks: a Guide

Employee background checks are a vital part of the recruitment pre-screening process. They give employers the chance to verify a prospective candidate’s criminal record, education and employment history in order to confirm their validity.

In this article, we will discuss the various background checks conducted by Human Resources departments in the UK. We will also highlight why they are so important and what factors you need to consider when investigating an employee or potential employee’s past.

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Employee Background Checks

A background check is a legal investigation into a potential employee’s history. Background screening often involves criminal background checks, identity verification, and education and credential checks. It can also include health checks, DVLA checks, social media screening and drug screening. The level of investigation you need to undertake will depend on the post being filled. In other words, if you are recruiting someone at an executive level (such as a new CFO) then you will need to perform more checks than for someone at a junior or entry level. Employee background checks are usually included as part of the pre-screening recruitment process, although they can be undertaken at any point that an employer feels is necessary.

HR background checks are used to verify that a person is who they claim to be. They provide a historical record that helps you find the right person for the job. Depending on the checks conducted, background screening can reveal if a potential new recruit is honest and trustworthy, and if they can perform the duties of the position. In other words, it can help you avoid hiring someone who may pose a threat to the workplace or become a liability. Ultimately, employment screening serves to reassure you that a candidate is who they say they are.

Background Checks UK

Below is a summary of the most common employee background checks in the UK. Most of these are regulated by law. The number of background checks you perform on a potential new recruit will depend on the roles and responsibilities of the position.

Criminal record checks: used to check an individual’s criminal history. Used for a range of positions including teachers and social workers. Checks must be proportionate to the role being applied for. They must also comply with the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA) 1974. Make sure you conduct the right Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check for each employee.

Right to Work checks: used to ensure an applicant is legally entitled to work in the UK. You must conduct these checks for all applicants. As an employer, it is your responsibility to conduct and maintain a record of all RTW checks. Failure to do so can result in fines of up to £20,000.

DVLA checks: used for roles where an employee will be driving on company time. This might include sales reps or couriers. A requirement of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.

Health check: used exclusively for cases where it is a legal requirement. For example, eye tests for commercial vehicle drivers.

Education and credential checks: standard checks used to verify a candidate’s qualifications and work history. Also includes reference checks.

Social media screening: used by some employers to gain insight into a candidate’s values and attitude. Can be used to make sure a candidate is the right fit for a position.

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Background Checks for Employers: Why It’s Important

  • Trustworthy employees: background checks provide you with the “bigger picture” of who a candidate really is. They can help you find the right person for the job.
  • Fraud Prevention: certain candidates might lie on their CV or embellish their qualifications. Employee background checks help you spot inconsistencies and avoid hiring someone who is under-qualified or inexperienced. This is an essential part of the recruitment process because hiring the wrong person can have a direct impact on quality and productivity.
  • Data Security: as an employer, it is vital that you have measures in place to prevent data theft and loss. This is especially true if a candidate will be handling confidential or sensitive data. HR background checks can help you protect your organisation from hackers, data theft and financial loss.
  • Protecting Your Workforce: as an employer, it is your responsibility to make sure your employees are protected from hostile working environments. Employment background checks will help you weed out any candidates who might pose a potential threat. This includes bullying, discrimination, acts of violence or sexual harassment. By protecting your employees you will build a happier workforce and achieve higher retention levels.
  • Legal Compliance: as an employer you are responsible for checking that your employees are legally entitled to work for you. By conducting Right to Work and industry-specific checks you ensure compliance and avoid any potentially hefty files.

Process for Background Check Employment Verification

During onboarding and pre-screening processes you will need to conduct a series of database checks through various agencies. Some checks are advisable, others are legal requirements. It is your responsibility as an employer to stay up to date with legal requirements and to establish a system for managing your employee background checks.

The first thing to remember is that you will require the prior consent of applicants to ensure compliance with data protection regulations. It is important to establish a strategy for your pre-screening processes. How much vetting will each position require? What checks will you conduct? Which supplier will you use to conduct the checks? How will you manage and monitor checks? You also need to ensure you obtain permission from candidates and that the checks you conduct are relevant and legal. This will ensure compliance and help you build a safe and trusted work environment.

You might want to consider using an applicant tracking system (ATS) to manage your recruiting and hiring process. With software such a Factorial’s ATS feature you can consolidate and streamline your processes, saving you time and money. You can also manage and automate requests for consent for background reports from candidates. It’s a one-stop solution that helps you effectively track your employee background checks and ensure legal compliance. Ultimately, it helps you find the right candidate to join your organisation.

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