March 18th, 2022 | Sterling

4 ways to mitigate risks with robust background checks

Employer hoping to hire a good candidate

Your people are the lifeblood of your business – they represent your brand every day and therefore it’s important to do your utmost to ensure you mitigate the risks of a bad hire, which in turn protects your people, customers and the public at large. This is particularly the case for positions of trust or authority, where an abuse of power could result in detrimental consequences.  Even the smallest case could have rippling effects within your business and society.

As part of everyday life, we make assumptions – that the doctor in the hospital has the necessary qualifications and skills to carry out his role safely, or that the taxi driver has the qualifications needed to drive you from A to B without any bumps along the way. In most cases, we can safely assume this is the case. Although, it’s not uncommon to hear about troublesome individuals that break the rules. In this blog post, we’ll explore examples and statistics around employment embellishments, insider fraud as well as the mitigating actions your organisation can take to ensure it’s doing all it can.

The risks of not performing background checks

A few years ago a story emerged of a woman that had worked as a consultant psychiatrist for 22 years with fake qualifications – this only came light after she had been found guilty of defrauding a patient.  After failing the first year of medical school, she had forged degree certificates and medical qualifications along with a fake recommendation from her most recent job. Cases like this not only put patients at risk but affect the reputation of those qualified individuals that put in the hard work, and of course the employers. Some unscrupulous individuals may feel the need to embellish qualifications to land more senior positions or to gain financially.

Indeed estimates, that around 40% of people lie on their resumes, and that 3 out of 4 employers have caught applicants doing so. While some inaccuracies include minor things such as date discrepancies, in extreme circumstances, these can pose significant risks. For example, a doctor in Glasgow was suspended for attempting to cover up a large number of lapsed qualifications by altering the dates, in an attempt to gain a senior position within the NHS.

We also place absolute trust in the employees and colleagues we work with, and why shouldn’t we?  The thought of them doing anything untoward such as leaking confidential information or gaining financially at the expense of the company isn’t something that typically crosses the mind of fellow employees.  Bad hires can slip through the net however. We first documented the worrying rise in internal fraud  in our blog ‘Why Internal Fraud is a Bigger Problem Than You Think’ citing that on a global level, 52% of all frauds are carried out by people inside the organisation and  that in the UK, 38% of businesses experienced internal fraud. The good news is that there are a number of steps your organisation can take to reduce the risks.

Your Risk Mitigation Plan

Risk mitigation, may be a term bandied round – but what does this really mean for your business? At a high level, this essentially just means putting together a strategy that allows your organisation to prepare for, and to lessen the effects of any threats it may face. These threats may include those we have already covered such as insider fraud, deceptive applicants or employees that could tarnish your reputation or compromise the safety to your business’ stakeholders.  

Here are some practical mitigating actions your organisation should consider, which can be implemented as a standalone solution or as part of a robust background screening program.

1. Implement a robust and consistent screening policy

When it comes to matters relating to your workforce, the importance of following policies and procedures cannot be underestimated – particularly if an applicant was to challenge your screening process or decision making. A clear and succinct background screening policy that documents the processes for requesting, receiving, and evaluating background checks will put your organisation one step ahead should you need to defend your programme. Our screening policy checklist addresses common concerns and provides you with a checklist of items to consider when creating your background screening policy. You can download this here.

2. Minimize the risk of internal fraud

While a number of checks such as a credit check or even a reference verification may uncover red flags that could give you some indication of previous fraudulent activities, Sterling also has a dedicated service with the aim of going a step further. As part of the candidate integrity search, and as a member of Cifas, Sterling has the ability to access Cifas’ internal fraud database and report findings (albeit only to clients who are existing members of Cifas). This helps to minimize the risk of employing someone who has committed fraud by detecting, deterring, and preventing perpetrators moving unchallenged to a new employer. If you’d like to know about this service offering, our team will be happy to tell you more about this or any other suitable option for your business.

3. Regulatory compliance

For all employers, there are mandatory checks such as Right to Work that need to be conducted.  Sterling’s innovative verification solution can be used as a standalone service to assist with UK Right to Work obligations, or as part of a wider background screening programme to mitigate the risk of a bad hire. This can prove costly for an employer should the correct procedure not be carried out, carrying fines of up to £20,000 for each illegal worker.

4. Go beyond the first check with Rescreening

While pre-employment checks in the UK is a great starting step, providing insight into an individual’s personal, financial and professional background – it’s important to remember that this only provides a snapshot at that point in time.  Many employers are acknowledging the benefits of an on-going rescreening programme that keeps pace with the lives of their employees. We’ve put together a rescreening checklist, with the considerations to get you started! This can be accessed here.

These are just a handful of many actions your organisation can take to mitigate the risks. Learn how Sterling is working with organisations such as LEGO Group and the NHS Professionals  to safeguard their people and customers.

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.