May 4th, 2015 | Sterling

The Importance of a Background Policy: Part 1

importance of a background check policy

During a webinar presented to SterlingBackcheck clients on April 30th, 2015, entitled “Employee Privacy: Are you sure you’re compliant?”, I conducted a poll to determine how many participants had documented background check policies in place in their organizations. I was interested to learn that only 40% of the respondents could confirm that they did have this in place. This number is simply too low!

Pre-employment background checks are an absolute necessity in today’s labour market, but navigating their privacy and human rights impact requires careful consideration and thorough legal guidance and review. To ensure compliance, and to be able to respond effectively to a privacy complaint or a discrimination claim, you should have a background check policy that takes into account all applicable privacy and human rights laws. In addition, you should be prepared to share it with employees, applicants and government agencies as needed. It should answer the following questions, among others:

  • Which background information is required for each position or type of position, and how will it be collected?
    A major privacy pitfall for employers is not understanding the information they collect. You must be sure that you know what you are asking for and can justify its collection; having this in a written policy is vital to help reassure your applicants that the background check is not an undue invasion of privacy. In addition, there is no one-size-fits-all background check package. Each position or type of position has a different risk profile; be sure you are collecting the right information for each one.
  • At what point in the recruiting process is a background check completed?
    I always advise that it is best to initiate a background check after a conditional offer is made; this saves cost, reduces unnecessary collection of personal information, and reduces the possibility of illegal discrimination. If this does not work for your business, however, your background check policy should define when the checks are done and the reasoning for the timing.
  • How are applicants notified of background check requirements?
    SterlingBackcheck does not complete background checks unless applicants have been notified and have consented to the check, but other pre-employment screening activities may also require notice – for example, reviewing an applicant’s LinkedIn profile. Make sure that different background check elements, and applicant notification (and consent, if necessary) are accounted for.
  • How is irrelevant, unnecessary or inaccurate information handled?
    You may receive unnecessary or inaccurate information in a background check. Your policy should describe how unnecessary information will be filtered out so as not to affect your decision, and how applicants can correct information that may be inaccurate.
  • How are background check results reviewed to make a final decision?
    This may be the most critical part of your background check policy. Who will review results? What criteria will be applied to make a decision? A well thought-out policy can help protect your organization from bad decisions and protect your applicants from discrimination.
  • How is the candidate notified of an adverse decision based on a background check?
    Once you’ve made an offer, how do you tell the applicant that you will rescind it? Should you give him/her a chance to dispute or explain background check results before you make a final decision? Your background check policy should ensure that your hiring process is functional while ensuring fairness to your applicants.

Note, you should always seek legal counsel for thorough guidance and review of any background check policy prior to implementing to ensure all relevant rules and regulations are clearly understood and accounted for. SterlingBackcheck regularly presents webinars and provides best practice guidance to help you design a comprehensive and compliant background check policy. Stay tuned!

For more information on employee privacy compliance, watch our on-demand webinar: Employee Privacy: Are you sure you’re compliant?

This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.