What is employee screening?

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Employee screening is a wider term used to cover various checks and tests that can be undertaken on an individual who is potentially going to be employed by a company or who is already engaged in employment with it.

Employees can pose risk of harm to a business in numerous ways due to the internal access and knowledge the undertaking of their contracted role necessitates; being fully informed and aware of who employees really are, their background and their identity is a crucial step in preventing any damage they could inflict and minimising risk of employee fraud.

Employees can pose risk of several different forms of fraud to a business as a result of their close involvement with it:

  • Payroll fraud can be undertaken by employees with access to payroll and can include them making higher payments to themselves or others than have been agreed or are due.
  • Expense fraud involves the submitting of inflated or false expenses claims for financial gain.
  • Data fraud is the sharing or breaching of confidential information held by the company to be sold at a profit to the employee to other agencies or to competitors, or used by the employee for their own independent business ventures. This can result in hefty financial penalty for the company.
  • Personnel fraud can be committed by an employee claiming sick pay dishonestly when they are not injured or ill, or after the time they have recovered. They may be just avoiding returning to work or may even be working another job and receiving a second income whilst still claiming their primary salary.
  • Insurance fraud can be implemented by the submitting of a false claim for injury or harm incurred at work.
  • Theft of stock, assets and company property can be an easy option for dishonest employees.
  • Financial fraud can be perpetrated by individuals with access to company funds or financial record records such as accountants or book keepers who may divert funds for their own purposes, alter invoices for financial gain or embezzle small and hard to detect amounts from company revenue over long periods.
  • Identity theft can be undertaken by employees with access to company financial information and identifying documents and proofs and used to gain credit to spend on purchases for themselves whilst amassing debt that the company is then liable for.
  • Abuse of company assets can be as small as misuse of company computers to search online during working hours to the illegitimate use of fleet cars or property for personal profit.
  • Cybercrime is easier to undertake if an individual already has access to company systems and passwords and can alter communications and systems within the business to cause harm to revenue, reputation and the overall health and survival of the business. 

It is clear, then, that employees can present a major form of risk to a business and that it is essential to the wellbeing of the business that future and current employees are fully screened to reduce risk posed.

Employee screening should start at the point that a business is considering hiring an individual as this minimises risk from day one; application processes need to include the provision of current and verifiable identification documents that include proof of address, the checking of certificates for qualifications stated and confirmation with the place of education or awarding body responsible for awarding these and requesting and checking out references from previous employers to ensure that they are genuine and the company and person giving the reference are real. 

For certain types of employment such as that which will include the handling of highly confidential information, access to vulnerable people or children or entry to people’s homes it is prudent (and sometimes legally necessary) to obtain a DBS (disclosure barring services) check which will report on any previous convictions and criminal history with an enhanced version also including any police information pertinent to the job role where appropriate. These checks can be obtained through subscription to an agency and options for this can be found online.

There are agencies that can support with verification of an individuals employment and academic history such as Experian. They can be accessed online and help businesses to have a greater degree of confidence that they are recruiting risk free.

If you didn’t obtain these checks at point of employment they can be introduced to the business at a later date, although this would need to be explained and justified to staff to prevent ill will and damage to working environments. Even if initial screening has taken place, it is good practice to undertake ongoing monitoring of this and request updated proofs of identity to check for any house moves or changes of name and to obtain biannual DBS checks within appropriate industries to ensure there has been no changes in this area or convictions since date of employment.

If recruiting in an area where finance is essential to the role and financial conduct is pertinent to the employee’s capacity to operate it is possible to undertake credit checking; this will require the candidate’s permission to obtain but any potential recruit with nothing to hide should be happy to consent to this. Again, agencies that provide this service can be readily found online.

Another check that can be undertaken for roles where it is appropriate is drug testing; this again would need the consent of the applicant but refusal can provide a useful indicator that this is probably not the person you want to employ anyway.

Drug testing can also be requested of an employee who has been working for the company for some time but for whom suspicions have arisen around potential substance misuse and this is impacting on their capacity, safety and competency within work. Again, refusal will probably tell you all you need to know but it is important to follow Acas guidelines if dismissal is to be pursued by the company as a result of this.

Certain job roles or businesses require absolute certainty about their employees and a deeper understanding of their background, personality and behaviour; if this is the case in your business a useful means of obtaining this is to utilise the services of a professional private investigation agency.

They have the software and access to data that is not available within the public domain to facilitate thorough background checking of an individual and can also make use of other investigation skills and methods to obtain information about an individual that will not be achieved through other means.

Private investigators can also operate in a bespoke manner meaning that they can look into targeted areas of an employee’s life and behaviours that are most relevant to the business, the job role the individual is being considered for and any potential vulnerabilities the company may be worried about.

Private investigators are also highly trained and informed regarding legal frameworks around employee screening so you can be assured that all work undertaken, and findings made, will be legally compliant and of practical use to the business.

Evidence will also be provided at the end of the corporate investigation which can support any decisions made by the company over whether to hire or not. This can also be shared with the applicant in case of challenge.

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