Do we really know people?

 Do we really know people?

It may seem to be a bit of a philosophical question but for business owners, it’s a thought that has very practical implications.

As businesses grow they inevitably have to employ more and more people and with that expansion comes a transfer of responsibility and also trust, at which point it is natural to wonder who we’re handing over the keys of the castle to.

It’s a difficult place to be – does your accountant have a criminal record? Are your technical directors’ qualifications real? Do your security staff have the right to work in the country?

Carrying out background checks on future employees might sometimes seem like a bit of a ‘nice-to-have’ but if you want to be sure then it’s important to vet your hires professionally.

The truth is that there could be any number of unseen issues hiding in the background of your employees. For some companies and in some roles that won’t really matter a great deal but for others it can be essential to check the background of their staff and in many cases, this will be a regulatory requirement.

What then is involved in a background check?

As the name suggests a background check is a method of looking into the identity, qualifications and history of a potential or current employee and making sure that everything stacks up.

More specifically a background check can include a variety of different aspects including name and identity verification, address history, credit history, criminal record checks, right to work checks, qualification verifications and a many more.

In the UK it is a legal requirement that employers ensure that their employees have the right to work in the country and there are penalties if this is not done effectively and the process isn’t documented. This is the minimum level of background check that an employer should do and would be appropriate for an industry that isn’t in a regulated sector and where the person concerned isn’t working in a position of responsibility.

Most application forms require the applicant to confirm that they don’t have unspent convictions however checking that this is truly vital where the potential employee is working in an area where there could be a risk.

The obvious example would be the bookkeeper who has access to the company bank accounts but also has convictions for fraud in their past. The less obvious example is the warehouse operative or van driver who have access to valuable stock and could quite easily spirit goods away. Would you feel comfortable if they had a criminal record for receiving stolen goods?

For security staff, there is no option. A background check must be completed to comply with the requirements of BS7858. This is no small matter as the extensive regulation means that amongst other things 5 years’ worth of address checks, criminal records checks, a DBS check and even a character reference are needed.

Even if security staff vetting was not required it would still be recommended. Typically security staff have a lot of access rights and act in an official capacity and the reputational risk is exceptional.

Vetting is important for airport security too. Employees who work on the airside of the site will need an ‘airside pass’ and this again requires extensive background checks to ensure that those of us flying are kept safe.

Although there are significant monetary risks associated with employing staff there are also reputational risks as we have seen with our security staff example.

By the same token, it only takes a few minutes searching Google to find many examples of companies that have suffered greatly when their senior employees’ qualifications have been found to be bogus.

As examples of what could possibly happen, consider the Financial Director of a listed company that it transpires isn’t a qualified accountant or the plastic surgeon who never quite managed to finish his or her education. In these instances, the damage to the reputation of the employer would be significant.

Even more so would be in the case of neglect or abuse where an employer had failed to carry out effective background checks on their social workers or care staff. In these regulated industries this kind of negligence could result in the loss of a licence.

A good rule of thumb to decide whether you should carry out applicant background checks would be to imagine the things that could go wrong and think about how it would look in the papers. Would the owners and directors be accused of being negligent and slapdash for not vetting their employees correctly?

Ironically getting a professionally completed background check isn’t time consuming or expensive. The Vetting Solutions Centre specialise in checks of all types and have packages to suit all needs from simple employee checks to full high-security background investigations as required by the major airports in the UK.


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