August 6th, 2018 | Sterling

Importance of Creating a Global Background Check Programme

For many businesses, hiring foreign-born workers or candidates with international experience has a distinct competitive advantage while diversifying the workplace and filling any empty skill gaps. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) “UK and Non-UK People in the Labour Market May 2018 Report“, found that from January to May 2018, there were 28.73 million UK nationals working in the UK, 2.29 million European Union (EU) nationals working in the UK and 1.25 million non-EU nationals working in the UK. EU nationals can currently look for work at a job in another EU country without a work permit and even stay in that country after the work is finished. However, with Brexit pending, organisations will want to follow developments closely and ensure they avoid any legal or reputational risks for their global hiring programme.

Hiring international workers can be a great benefit to employers, yet it can present significant background screening challenges. Data protection and privacy laws vary between countries, making global background check an important, yet complex process for many organisations. Issues such as compliance with foreign data protection laws, the type of information that needs to be searched and how to interpret the results are key considerations for employers.

Global Screening Gap

If a candidate has lived, studied or worked outside the UK, it is wise to undergo an international background screening check. But, fewer than half of the companies surveyed in our Background Checks 2018: UK Trends & Best Practices Report conduct or plan to conduct these types of background screening checks. According to our survey, 79% of businesses employ foreign-born workers, yet 40% don’t currently conduct or plan to conduct any global screening in the next year. This gap may be due to the complexities associated with screening globally.

See below for the results when we asked respondents if they currently conduct or plan to conduct global pre-hire background check:

Global Screening from UK Best Practices Report

The survey asked what percentage of their workforce includes EU nationals and found that for almost half of employers, EU nationals form up to a quarter of their workforce. Meanwhile, 13% of employers said their workforces include between 25% and 49% EU nationals and 8% reported that EU nationals make up between 75% and 99% of the workforce. When asked what type of global screening respondents currently conduct, 39% of respondents said they screen for criminal records, 39% screen for Right to Work, 38% screen for employment verification and 29% screen for identity verification.

Data Protection and Privacy Laws

Data protection and privacy laws can primarily regulate background screening. These laws can vary considerably from one country to another and when combined with employment laws, result in a patchwork of legal obligations organisations must follow. Some countries have single or multiple national privacy or data protection laws that result in comprehensive coverage while other countries do not have data protection and privacy laws but, have some coverage in their constitution and other laws. The EU’s GDPR is one example of data privacy laws that came into effect on 25 May 2018. When creating a new background screening programme in international locations and “exporting” an existing screening programme to international locations, it is important to remember that one size does not fit all and there can be many hurdles imposed by local laws. Multinational corporations must develop a background screening strategy which is relevant to the markets, cultures and geographic locations in which they operate.

Creating a Global Background Check Programme

A global background check is a collection of screening elements that could include a criminal record check,  identity verification, credit inquiries, employment and education verifications and even reference checks. Global background checks will vary based on many factors including the type of position being filled, past countries of residence, country and regional specific privacy and data protection regulations and the level of risk the position poses to an organisation.

Creating a global background screening programme is also a balancing act. Companies are trying to address potential corporate risks whilst respecting the rights of their employees and candidates. A “blanket-rule” approach should not be followed as there are many regulations that could be breached based on candidate’s location. It is vital only to use job-relevant background check information when making a final hiring decision. Therefore, role-based background screening ensures a proportionate approach that mitigates risk, whilst respecting employee and candidate privacy.  Businesses should plan a longer timeline for their onboarding procedures to allow for sufficient time to run global background checks, as these normally take longer.

Understanding Best Practice and Compliance Requirements

With foreign workers continuing to enter the UK labour market, it’s vitally important that effective, robust policies are in place to screen them. If there is any doubt about the screening process, then companies should consider using a third-party screening provider to ensure that all legal obligations are being met. By using the same screening provider and the same process for all workers, you can be sure that the hiring process is fair and equal for everyone and that you thoroughly understand an individual’s background before recruiting them. As the global leader in background screening, Sterling works tirelessly to reduce complexity, delivering the value of local expertise and recognizing differences across regional markets. We have the largest global footprint enabling us to conduct background screening in all 196 counties.

Find out more about our survey results and background check best practices by downloading a copy of “Background Checks 2018: UK Trends & Best Practices Report”.

Download the Background Checks 2018: UK Trends and Best Practices Report

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.