Pre-Employment Screening Checks

  • Recruitment
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Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

(Last updated )

In this guide, we'll discuss pre-employment screening checks, why and when you should perform one, and the legal requirements.

It's vital your employees are who they say they are. Which is why you need to validate every potential candidate's resume, work history, and legal right to work. This can be done by conducting background checks as part of your recruitment process.

The law may require you to perform certain background checks, depending on your industry. But it can also provide several benefits to your business. Such as ensuring you are retaining the best talent and avoiding legal trouble.

If you don't use an employment background check, your business might face high staff turnover, poor job performance, and damage to your company's reputation.

In this guide, we'll discuss pre-employment screening checks, why and when you should perform one, and the legal requirements.

What is a pre-employment background check?

A pre-employment background check - also known as a pre-employment screening - is a process employers use to validate the relevant information a candidate provides. This ensures potential employees are suitable for the role they have applied for.

This information might include:

Pre-employment screen checks are an important part of the hiring process. They protect the employer from legal trouble, whilst ensuring the potential employee is trustworthy and above board.

When are pre-employment background checks conducted?

Business owners can choose to conduct the employment screening process at any point during recruitment. This could be:

Before the job offer

Employers might perform a pre-employment screening before they make a hiring decision. In some instances, they may make it a requirement as part of a job application.

For example, the financial services authority requires job applicants in financial firms - ones which it regulates - to perform an FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) check.

This is a comprehensive background check. And ultimately speeds recruitment up, as it removes unqualified candidates from the applicant pool. It also means new employees can quickly begin the company's onboarding process.

However it can be expensive to vet potential candidates. So it's worth considering if the job requires extensive pre-employment screening.

After the job offer

In most cases, pre-employment background checks are commonly conducted near the end of the hiring process. This is typically after an employer offers a candidate a job.

This can save money as there is only one potential employee that requires a background check. But it can be risky if the applicant fails their screening, and you have to begin recruiting again.

Throughout employment

Business owners could also regularly perform background checks on existing employees. This can help mitigate potential risks to a business throughout a person's employment.

Some employees stay with a company for several years. And throughout this time employers might not keep track of their staff's business. Which could lead to their company suffering if an employee commits any wrongdoing.

What does the law say about pre-employment checks?

Employers have a legal obligation to perform certain background checks before hiring a new employee. This includes right to work checks, which verify whether a candidate is able to work in the UK.

In some industries, it's also a legal requirement for employers to perform criminal background checks on candidates. For example, the law prohibits individuals with certain convictions from working with children or vulnerable adults.

Other checks - such as health checks - are not legal obligations, but can be advantageous to a business. However, this type of screening requires written consent from the individual. So it's worth mentioning it as a requirement on the job application.

Employers must also ensure they're following GDPR if choosing to collect and store employee data. This includes the data a background check provides. Processing data lawfully will also help companies avoid a data breach.

How long does a pre-employment background check take?

Basic background checks - such as a credit check - usually take about three to five days to process.

More extensive background checks - like a DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check, or criminal record checks - may involve a longer processing time. Usually because the check screens vast amounts of data.

Different types of pre-employment screening checks

There are several different types of background checks an employer can conduct. And as an employer, it's important to know them all - so you can consider which check might improve your recruitment process and which are legally required.

Background checks may include:

Medical checks

A medical background check advises whether a candidate is fit to work in a specific role. Depending on your industry, you might choose to conduct medical checks on your potential employees.

This is where a medical professional will assess the health of your candidates. It might include an eye test, blood test, or urine sample.

For example, a business hiring a driver will need to ensure the candidate has clear vision, or wears glasses. As it's a legal requirement for employers of commercial vehicle drivers to perform.  

Credit checks

Another background check you might decide to conduct is a credit check. An employer will perform credit checks to receive information about an individual's credit history.

A credit history check includes details about an individual's payments, credit accounts, and credit limits. But depending on your business, it might not be necessary to perform.

Basic and standard DBS checks

DBS checks provide information about an individual's criminal history. There are three different types of DBS checks:

  • A basic DBS check.
  • A standard DBS check.
  • An enhanced DBS check.

A basic DBS check is the cheapest criminal background check you can conduct. Because it offers the lowest level of screening. It provides details about a candidate's unspent convictions, as well as conditional cautions - if the applicant has any.

A standard DBS check is pretty much the same, but also includes information about spent convictions, cautions, reprimands and warnings.

Enhanced DBS checks

As the name suggests, an enhanced DBS check contains detailed information about a person's criminal record. And differs from other criminal record checks, because it offers more insight into an applicant's criminal history.

This includes relevant information that the local police provide. You can also request a barred list check as part of an enhanced DBS check. These lists ensure that no one attempting to work with children - or vulnerable adults - has a criminal record related to either group.

Educational verification

Educational verification is another form of background check. It validates the educational history on an applicant's resume, and checks they have obtained the qualifications they reference.

For example, an engineering firm will need to ensure the employees they hire have the appropriate qualifications to qualify as an engineer. And will therefore use educational verification.

Reference checks

A reference check is a type of employment verification. This type of screening validates an applicant's employment history.

These checks are simpler to conduct. Because candidates will typically provide contact details of references during the recruitment process. It's important to ask for at least two references to get a better insight into an applicant's skills and suitability.

Right to work checks

Unlike a criminal record check, the law requires every business to conduct a right to work check. This type of employment screening confirms whether an individual has the right to work in the UK.

Hiring an illegal worker is a crime. And if you don't perform a right to work check, your business could face severe penalties. To ensure a fair and accurate process, it's also good practice to hire a third party company to perform each screening.

You can perform background checks yourself, but you must ensure you conduct them on all candidates. This will avoid future discrimination claims.

DVLA checks

DVLA checks verify an individual's driving license. It allows an employer to access the license information of a candidate. These checks aren't necessary for every company to conduct. But are a requirement for businesses employing drivers.

Social media checks

The increase in social media use over the years has meant individuals share plenty of their lives online. But this can be bad for business if a candidate's posts are offensive or derogatory.

It doesn't hurt for any business to perform a check of a candidate's social media. Most likely, you will probably find next to nothing. But if you do, you can avoid damage to your company's reputation, and prevent customer or client loss.

Why do businesses use a pre-employment screening?

Whilst some background checks are a legal obligation, others help employers avoid damage to their business. And can be beneficial in the long-term.

Other reasons may include:

Fraud prevention

Employers might use background checks to avoid employee fraud. Some applicants may lie or exaggerate their qualifications, experience and skills on their CV. With a pre-employment screening, you can confirm that they are qualified to perform the role you advertise.

This can help you avoid legal trouble in the future - especially if a client finds out an employee doesn't have the right qualifications.

To maintain workplace security

Conducting background checks on applicants can also help you manage and maintain a secure workplace.

For example, your organisation might employ predominantly women. And if your social media check shows a candidate sexually harassing women online - it might jeopardise your employees's safety if you were to hire them.

Improve the quality of the hire

Using background checks will also improve the quality of your hire. For example, you might perform a social media check on a potential employee. And discover that they have shared offensive posts.

If you had decided to employ the candidate without performing a check, you may discover they are sharing these views in the workplace. Which could open you up to bullying, harassment, and discrimination claims.

To reduce staff turnover

Using background checks might also reduce staff turnover. It saves you from dismissing employees later if their unsuitability becomes apparent.

With a background check – depending on which one you conduct - you'll already be aware of whether the candidate has committed any wrongdoing previously. Or if they aren't qualified for the job.

Get expert advice on pre-employment background checks from Peninsula

You should include a pre-employment background check as a key part of your recruitment process. This will ensure your candidate's resume is factually correct. And - if necessary - that they pass a criminal background check.

Otherwise, your business could suffer as a result. And you might experience poor job performance, low employee engagement, and an increase in staff turnover. Not to mention the reputational damage to your company.

Peninsula offers you expert 24/7 HR advice and support, to help you with pre-employment screening checks. As well as providing further advice on hiring a third party company to perform them. Contact us today on 0800 0282 420.


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