Background checks are on the rise
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Background checks are on the rise amongst employers – so what should you be checking?

Background checks are on the rise amongst employers. So why are they so important in the employment screening process and why should you make sure you’re doing your due diligence?

The impact of a business scandal can be far-reaching and long-lasting. As a case in point, the current corruption scandal at FIFA is causing shockwaves around the world. Indeed, the U.S.A. is taking top FIFA officials to court after a three-year investigation by the FBI. Of course, this isn’t your average organisation – or your average group of employees. However, companies of all different shapes and sizes have experienced the consequences of untrustworthy employees.

A fraudulent employee can bring a company to the brink of closing. No matter how big or resilient it may appear. In recent years, we’ve seen the trader known as the London Whale lose at least $6.2 billion for JP Morgan, and UBS trader Kweku Adoboli lose the Swiss bank over $2 billion.

Of course, no matter how thoroughly you check someone’s background, there’s always a degree of risk. But you can at least protect yourself as much as possible by following a rigorous due diligence process. The law provides thorough guidelines on what you can and can’t do.

Legal employee checks in the UK

In the UK, the government provides guidelines on the checks employers can conduct on job applicants . Some of these are compulsory while others are voluntary, depending on the level of risk your organisation may be susceptible to and the role of the potential employee.

Right to work in the UK

The most important thing to check is that a job applicant has the right to work in the UK before you hire them. You can be fined up to £20,000 if you can’t show evidence that you checked an employee’s eligibility for UK employment.

Criminal record

jobs, such as working with children or in healthcare, require employers to carry out a criminal record check before hiring someone. These are conducted by the Disclosure and Barring Service. However, unless there is a specific need to conduct a background check due to the nature of the employment, it’s illegal for employers not to hire someone based on any spent convictions they have.

Health checks

Certain jobs require health checks on successful candidates before they’re employed, due to the type of work. For example, this could include eye tests for commercial vehicle drivers or health checks on cycle couriers. These are often required by the insurers, but there is strict protocol for following this. The employer needs to make clear the health check requirement in their offer letter and receive written consent before contacting the candidate’s doctor for a health report. The issue of employment related to an employee’s health, medical conditions or disability is strictly governed by law to ensure that employers don’t discriminate against potential employees.

Data protection

Employers who carry out a background check must make sure they adhere to government instructions on managing employees’ records securely. Paper records need to be locked in filing cabinets and computer-based data needs to be password-protected. Information must also be securely destroyed after the necessary time period has elapsed.


An important and prudent part of the recruitment process is making sure you receive references before your employee starts. These should be from the HR department of previous employers, where possible. Personal references can be useful from a supplementary perspective, but there is always a level of risk involved if you don’t get an official reference from the relevant department of a past employer.

While there’s no way of ensuring the integrity of a potential employee absolutely, conducting due diligence within the guidelines of the law can go a long way to providing added security.

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