MEMBER BULLETIN – Pre-Employment Background Checks

September 28, 2017

“Trust Me” – new employee background checks 

A recent BBC drama “Trust Me” highlighted the storyline of a nurse fraudulently working as a senior doctor within the accident and emergency department.  This story and numerous cases of high level appointments of candidates that have lied about their qualifications is a stark reminder of the importance of carrying out pre-employment background checks to protect your organisation.

Eligible and suitable employees

All employers have a legal obligation to check the right of all new employees to work in the UK. It is also essential to choose the right person and make the appropriate checks to ensure their suitability for their role before they start work.

Pre-employment background checks should always reflect the requirements of the job and should only investigate those aspects of the candidate’s past that are relevant.  Checks can range from references from past employers to criminal records checks, credit checks, verification of qualifications and DVLA checks.

HR best practice is to inform candidates of any checks to be made early on within the recruitment process.  This would enable early discussions of any concerns that may result in an unsuitable applicant withdrawing their application, thus saving your organisation time and money. A timely discussion with a candidate over any concerns may also uncover inaccurate information, good reasons or mitigating factors to take into consideration.

Compliance, safety and retention

The biggest obstacles to performing background checks are lack of time and money but most employers undertake background checks for the following reasons:

  • Meeting regulatory compliance (including checking the right to work in the UK, as well as other required checks, dependent on the role and sector)
  • Improving the quality of the candidates (who are less likely to lie, or make fraudulent claims if they know the information will be checked)
  • Improving employer reputation (the employer is seen to be thorough and diligent)
  • Enhance safety and security (as employers can be found vicariously liable for the actions of their employees, it makes sense to check driving licences, gas safety certification etc)
  • Increase retention (better suited candidates are more likely to perform well and less likely to leave).

Appropriate steps to take

It is a good idea to ask a candidate to complete an application form even if they have already sent you their CV.  A good application form will ask for specific information that may not be included in a CV or covering letter, such as confirmation of eligibility to work in the UK, any criminal convictions not spent and covered under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.  The application form may also request contact details of referees and details about where the candidate saw the vacancy so that you can measure the effectiveness of your recruitment process. An added benefit of an application form is that it can ask the candidate to sign to confirm that the information they are providing is accurate and truthful.

It is important to be aware of the types of questions that employers are banned from asking potential employees in relation to the Equality Act. The key to good background checks is to identify those which are essential for the role, or which will provide useful information to assist you in making a good appointment and to apply a fair recruitment process.  Background checks should not single out individuals for specific checks; checks requested should apply to all applicants for a specific type of role. You may then decide whether to undertake these checks in-house, or whether to outsource some of them.

HR Solutions offer several more practical and appropriate steps to take in relation to HR best practice when carrying out pre-employment checks.  You can view the ‘Trust Me’ webinar recording at: