Pre-Employment Checks

09 July 2019

When recruiting new employees for job roles, it pays to be as thorough as possible.

Unfortunately, fake documents, unaccountable career-gaps, and bad references are all too common. The best way to avoid such issues is by using pre-employment checks.

By making these checks, you can protect your business from potential employees who may be a good fit. Be aware, neglecting your legal requirements could lead to civil penalty, monetary fines, and even criminal conviction.

In this guide, we'll look at what pre-employment checks are, examples of different checks, and how to manage them before hiring a new candidate.

What are pre-employment checks?

Pre-employment checks are used to vet prospective employees before they join a company. The checks minimise the risk of hiring someone who may cause business disruptions.

Checks allow you to fully determine whether a potential employee will be suitable to join a team or workforce. They also establish whether an individual is not allowed to work. For example, if they're legally allowed to work in the uk.

The time period for them ultimately depends on what type of check is carried out; as well as what is required for the job. But most checks are usually done within a four-week frame.

An image of two people shaking hands in a job interview.

Examples of different types of pre-employment screening methods

There are several examples of different types of checks you may need within your recruitment process. For example, health checks, checking qualifications, and criminal record checks.

You're not legally obliged to carry out every single one. But it could prove beneficial to implement ones relevant to your business.

Here are some examples of pre-employment screening methods:

Right to work check

Before hiring, every employee should have the right to work in the uk. This is regardless of whether they're British citizens or not.

Right to work checks eliminate the risk of prospective employees working illegally.

During these checks, avoid making assumptions on a person's right to work in the UK. As well as their nationality, ethnicity, or their length of residency in the UK.

Criminal record checks

A criminal record check is an effective way to hire employees legally and safely.

There are several employment sectors where a job requires criminal records. For example:

  • Working with children or vulnerable adults.
  • Having regular contact with vulnerable groups, like in care homes or schools.
  • Having contact with controlled drugs or intoxicants.
  • Working in a medical realm.
  • Working in a legal profession.

In some cases, candidates may be asked to provide criminal records checks, as well as identity documents. This is usually done when checks are a legal requirement.

Health checks

Health checks, or medical checks, are a great way to determine whether candidates are fit for a particular role.

Certain jobs may require a medical examination in order to be hired. For example, commercial vehicle drivers need to pass eye tests so they can drive safely.

Avoid asking job applicants for a health check or medical report during any stage of the recruitment process. This minimises the risk of unlawful discrimination against disabilities. Instead, ask whether they require access assistance or adjustments.

Background checks

In recent times, the employment market has become more and more competitive. Many candidates face great difficulties, battling 'rivals' for a particular role or position.

That's why it's helpful to perform a background check. When jobs have security levels or required qualifications, it's best to carry out these checks. This highlights suitable job applicants–separating from anyone with fraudulent or adverse information.

For example, in the financial services sector, candidates may need to provide their credit history for security vetting.

An image of a passport and boarding pass.

What are the UK laws on pre-employment checks?

Many businesses openly seek to hire workers of foreign nationalities. When you hire someone to work in the UK, you need to follow every legal requirement needed.

You might think you're making more money this way; or building a dependable workforce. But hiring them without checks is extremely ineffective.

In some cases, foreign workers may class as vulnerable people, especially if they have right to work issues. In the end, they could risk deportation, uprooting their families, or even imprisonment.

Businesses can be fined up to £20,000 if they fail certain checks needed for prospective employees.

Data Protection Act

When it comes to new employees, you need to ensure all relevant information and checks have been carried out.

Personal information must be kept confidential and secure, under the Data Protection Act 2018. The act outlines how to collect, keep, and dispose confidential information legally.

Employees are allowed to request employment information kept on them. You can only retain data within the legal timeframe. Anything beyond this can lead to monetary penalties for your business.

An image of someone typing on a keyboard.

When should you perform pre-employment screening checks?

It’s crucial to perform checks before the start of a job. This gives you sufficient time to make suitable checks and investigations on potential candidates. For example, check if they have a criminal offence.

The downfall of performing checks beforehand is that it's time-consuming. You also need to establish whether you're legally allowed to action certain checks. However, in the long run, you can money and effort, as you’re usually vetting one candidate at a time.

After your checks, you might discover they aren't suitable for the role after all. Withdrawing job offers can be difficult for both parties. For example, if they've already handed in a written statement of notice at their previous job.

An image of a CV.

How to manage pre-employment checks in the workplace

Whether you require standard and enhanced checks or basic ones, follow all the correct steps during recruitment.

By doing so, your business and employees can be kept safe and legally compliant. Here are ways to manage a pre-employment check in the workplace:

Outline job requirements

As listed, there are several types of screening checks you can perform. Start by outlining your job requirements from the get-go.

Find out whether you need to perform paper-based or virtual checks. Highlight the validity of the documents–ensuring they aren't fraudulent or incorrect.

Make copies and keep them in a secure place, like a locked cabinet. Document the date when the copies were made, as this helps minimise data protection issues.

Comply with relevant legislation

During your recruitment process, ensure compliance with every relevant legislation. Be mindful of what laws adhere with the job offer and the applicant.

If you don’t, you could face detrimental business damages. But worst of all, you could end up unintentionally ruining work careers and personal lives.

Make sure candidates provide the right information, documentation, and checks. That way, you can hire employees in the safest way before giving a conditional offer.

Carry out reference checks

It might be hard to determine a person's identity after one interview. That's why requesting references are so important when hiring new employees.

References allow you to see beyond a candidate's qualifications or employment history. And determine whether they're a good fit for your company's culture and ethos.

A reference check should include:

  • Employment dates (start to end, or whether it's currently ongoing).
  • Details of their job role.
  • Main responsibilities on a daily basis.
  • Attendance records.
  • If they have disciplinary actions against them.
  • Reasons for why they shouldn’t be employed.

Vet social media platforms

It might seem like an over-step, but you can choose to vet social media platforms.

If a candidate's platforms are public, you can discover whether they'll thoroughly meet your preferred qualifications or work ethic.

Social media platforms can also display any evidence for racism or homophobia, which can make you think twice about hiring them.

But there are limits with online checks. Avoid 'following' or 'adding' them from personal accounts. And managers mustn't pressurise colleagues or teams for social connections either.

An image of two people shaking hands in a meeting room.

Can you withdraw a job offer after pre-employment checks have been done?

Yes, employers can withdraw a job offer after completing checks for new job roles–but only through certain circumstances.

Once someone has started, you cannot then withdraw a conditional offer. It would be illegal for someone with a bad DBS to start working and just be on a probation to see if they were any good.

Here, let the candidate know about the withdrawal as soon as possible. And express your reasons and condolences.

Get expert advice on pre-employment checks with Peninsula

When it comes to pre-employment checks, carry out all relevant ones for new workers. This ensures both sides are working in the most legal and safest manner.

Remember, if you neglect the legalities for checks, it can lead to financial penalties, imprisonment, and even deportation.

Peninsula offers expert advice on managing pre-employment checks. Our team offers a 24/7 HR advice service which is available 365 days a year; with multi-lingual assistance and fully trained counsellors ready to help.

Want to find out more? Book a free consultation with one of our HR consultants. Call 0800 028 2420.

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