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David Lean



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Employee vetting in recruitment – a must or a nice-to-have?


How effective is making pre-employment vetting part of the recruitment process in order to reduce subsequent fraud and theft?  

Which pre-employment checks are necessary and where do you stand on hiring ex-offenders?
Such topics have been widely debated in the HR world for years without any clear-cut answers having emerged. But what is certain is that, when it comes to pre-employment checks for new employees and ongoing checks for existing ones, the burden of corporate responsibility continues to weigh heavily, whether organisations operate in the public or private sector.
This situation is hardly surprising given that staff fraud costs UK business more and more each year. According to the Fighting Retail Crime Report and Global Retail Theft Barometer, the average amount stolen by dishonest workers is £1,988 compared with the shoplifter’s average of £93. 
By this calculation, undertaking employee screening would appear to be money well spent if potential thieves can be identified before they end up being employed. But the same report found that a typical in-house thief had generally put in less than a year’s service and worked part-time.
Nearly half of the organisations questioned also indicated that at least a quarter of the people apprehended worked in management, supervisory, senior administrative and even security officer roles – which all just goes to show that a thief’s profile is far from easily recognisable.
As to which sectors tend to be most vigilant in undertaking pre-employment vetting, it is those that are subject to multiple legal and regulatory requirements such as the security services, financial services and industries where workers look after children or otherwise vulnerable people. By the same token, if employers operate within an industry where such checks are not a legal requirement, they tend not to bother. 
But these days an increasing number of checks are starting to be required across the board, ranging from the right of a given individual to work to proof of their identity and address as well as their credit status, criminal record, career history, qualifications and the validity of their drivers’ licence.
Checks on the up
For example, while it is obviously illegal to employ a non-EU foreign national if they do not have a genuine right to work in this country, how do you know if they have this right or not?
The problem is that there are a lot of convincing forged passports and visas around these days and no central government database to check them against or Home Office telephone number to call to check their validity. This makes it tricky to demonstrate that your duty of care has been fulfilled in order to prevent fines being levied against the organisation.
Another consideration is ensuring that employees and customers are neither known terrorists or are sponsoring terrorist organisations in the financial sector.
While Criminal Records Bureau checks provide a ‘snapshot’ at a given point in time, they do not act as a guarantee against an individual’s future behaviour. It is only necessary to consider the child abuse incidents associated with nursery worker, Vanessa George, in Plymouth to realise that vetting is just one part of good practice – she had had a clear CRB check.
Although pre-employment screening is likewise not able to provide any guarantees for the future, it can supply a more detailed insight into a candidate’s past. And the fact that dropout rates of 10% and 15% for job applicants are typical when such processes are in place would suggest that they can act as a deterrent.
But post-employment checks are equally important in some sectors. For NHS Trusts, for example, it will be necessary to validate ambulance drivers’ driving licences annually as well as undertake enhanced criminal record checks. The aim here is to both comply with legislation and conform with duty of care obligations to protect vulnerable adults and children.
The same applies to security officers who must have their operating licences renewed every three years as well as airport workers who also have to have criminal record checks every three years in order to renew their identity passes. Financial organisations, meanwhile, tend to check their employees’ credit status annually in order to minimise the risk of debt-laden workers dipping their hands into the till. 
The idea is that background checks do not merely benefit employers themselves, but also customers and employees too. This means that, in times of economic uncertainty, they become more important than ever.  
David Lean is a director of pre- and post-employment screening services provider, hco-vetting.
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David Lean


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