2020 was an unprecedented year reminding us how rapidly change can affect the workplace. 2021 has proven to be just as challenging for employers. On the employment background screening front, employers must ensure these changes are reflected in their screening policies. Having an updated company policy in place gives clarity to a background check and protects your company from potential liability around the use of background screening information.
In its benchmark report, Cisive Insights: Talent Screening Trends 2021, Cisive asked participants how often they reviewed their background screening policies. The majority of respondents said that they review their background screening policy every two to five years (44%), and slightly over one-fourth review their policy annually. At least one-fifth of participants said that their organizations do not review their background screening policy more frequently than every five years.
Your background check policy not only defines how your company conducts background screening, it also serves as formal documentation that informs candidates and employees about what your background screening includes, how often background checks are conducted, and the consequences of negative information being discovered via a background check. A well-designed policy incorporates best practices and regulatory compliance updates to help you minimize hiring risk and move candidates smoothly from application to hire. It also helps your company create a better candidate and employee experience.
What Aspects of Your Background Screening Policy Should You Review?
The short answer: All of them. Because legislation around background screening can vary widely on a state and local level, as well as under new federal laws, every component of your background screening process should be evaluated, reviewed, checked for compliance and accuracy, and formally updated.
1) Types of screening. Your background screening policy should explain the types of screening you conduct, from criminal history search to education and employment verification to drug screening and driver records searches. This should include which screening activities apply to specific job categories or descriptions. For example, background checks for employees who have access to the company’s sensitive financial information may include a credit check, if allowed under applicable state law, but such a search would not be required for employees in roles that do not access this information.
2) Screening consistency. Are you conducting the same type of screening for similar job roles? Is every new employee subject to education and employment verification as well as a drug screen, or is the policy different based on location or other factors? Consistency in screening for similar roles is imperative, as different screening activities could be perceived as discriminatory.
3) Compliance. This should take industry regulatory changes into account, as well as federal and state law. An accredited background screening partner like Cisive can also provide helpful educational resources keeping you abreast of regulatory, legal, and compliance requirements that may apply to you. Employers should still work closely with their legal department to review all policies for compliance.
4) Frequency of screening. This includes how often current employees are screened, or in the case of continuous monitoring serves as a guide for your employees around what screening activities may be conducted as well as the consequences should screening discover a new criminal charge, for example. Frequency should also take circumstantial screening policy into account; for example, if a workplace accident occurs, are the employees involved drug tested within a specific timeframe?
5) Disclosures and authorizations. Your background check policy should include Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)-compliant disclosures and authorizations. Non-compliant disclosure and authorization forms can result in significant fines and potential lawsuits. Additionally, under the FCRA, a pre-decision notification is required prior to taking an adverse employment, retention, or promotion action. This should be included in your policy.
For large companies, or companies with high turnover, we recommend reviewing your background screening policy every six months. For smaller companies, or companies with low turnover, we recommend reviewing your policy annually.