Adapting to Background Screening Challenges During Covid-19 Fallout

World trade is expected to drop by up to 32% due to the covid-19 scare. Photo by Julius Silver from Pexels

The sudden shutdown of businesses during the covid-19 scare is expected to create a drop in world trade of between 13 and 32 percent, according to the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Economic experts liken the current covid crisis to the 2008-09 financial crisis with fiscal policies quickly put in place to counter the downturn in trade. However, unlike the financial crisis, restrictions due covid fears have had more far-reaching affects that have severely impacted transport, travel and labor supply chains. 
Millions have been put out of work across various industries yet there is also an increase in demand for ‘frontline’ workers in the healthcare, medical, retail and transport industries. 
A new paradigm of working remotely online has also come to the fore, creating new challenges for employers, who must now invest in a virtual working environment or decide whether it’s worth keeping workers on paid leave or make some redundant.
The British Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that 76 per cent of UK firms had applied for the furlough scheme to pay 80 per cent of workers wages up to £2,500 a month up until October.
However, businesses are being hit hard with new requirements for employers to cover up to 30 per cent of furloughed employees’ wages from August.
WTO chief Roberto Azevêdo said: “Keeping markets open and predictable, as well as fostering a more generally favourable business environment, will be critical to spur the renewed investment we will need”.
Background screening checks remain essential in recruiting. As before, the goal remains the same; to recruit appropriately qualified individuals and mitigate any potential risks associated with negligence in the hiring process.

Background Screening Important as Ever Amidst Covid Crisis

Political debate and media hype is causing huge confusion and uncertainty for businesses, especially those involving face-to-face contact with customers and the general public, who have become ultra vigilant to guard themselves against health risks.
Casual work is on the uptake, especially in delivery service jobs. However, all companies and organizations are responsible for the actions of their employees, even those who work through an agency or third-party employer, as people working directly or indirectly ultimately represent the organization.

4 Levels of Background Checks

The extent of background screening checks very much depends on the industry and the nature of the duties. We can classify the screening checks in the following 4 levels.

Level 1 – Basic Background Checks

Every employer is expected to do the bare minimum in background checks to verify the identity of applicants, check their educational background if certain qualifications are a requirement for the position, and verify previous employment references in applications.

Level 2 – Public Safety

Organizations in the public and financial sectors in which employees are in positions of trust and in close contact with the general public, especially in healthcare and childcare, should conduct public records searches (civil and criminal records) and check the sex offender registry.

Level 3 – Licenses

Professional license verification is usually mandatory for organizations hiring professionals that require certification and licensing such as legal and accountancy firms, as well as health practitioners. License checks also have to be carried out on those operating heavy machinery or driving.

Level 4 – Drug Screening

Mainly for positions in which employees are working in an environment where safety is of high concern such as operating heavy machinery, driving and flying.
Drug screening is a highly contentious issue. Regulations governing how and when employers carry out drug screening differ depending on local labour and privacy laws.

Background screening in Europe

Most European nations allow employers to carry out pre-employment drug screening on prospective employees, only if necessary for the duties of the job in safety-critical industries. Sweden and Italy for example have made drug screening mandatory for jobs entailing safety risks but employers in the UK must first get permission from the candidate. 
Drug screening during employment is generally allowed in selected safety-risk industries but is usually at the employer’s discretion and must be agreed by the employee before signing a work contract.

Background Screening in the USA

Although drug screening in American workplaces is commonplace and widely accepted as par for the course, both pre-employment drug screening and workplace drug tests in the US are affected by a myriad of federal and state regulations. Employers have to ensure their background screening complies with state and local laws, as well as making provisions for state workers’ compensation laws and state unemployment insurance laws.

Following the Fair Credit Reporting Act

The US Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is intended to protect consumers by promoting accuracy, fairness and privacy of information contained in the files held by consumer reporting agencies. The act also covers how employers use consumer reports to screen job applicants or employees with the following directives for employers:

  • Get written permission to do background checks
  • Inform the applicant how you intend to use credit reports
  • Not misuse the information from credit reports
  • Give a copy of an employee’s credit report if the employer decides not to hire the candidate
  • Give applicants and employees the opportunity to dispute the information in a credit report before making a final adverse decision.

Affects of Covid-19 on Background Screening Checks

Organizations providing essential services are working in an environment where the public is being highly vigilant over personal health and safety concerns. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels 

The need for employers to carry out pre-employment background screening remains vital, even more so among organizations providing essential services that are rushing to take on more workers during the crisis, especially in driving and delivery roles requiring licenses. Here at Intelimasters we are seeing a longer turnaround time for processing background checks due to the temporary closure or limited working capacity of government organizations.
Contacting former employers to verify work history is challenging while offices are closed and staff are predominantly working from home.  
Employers in the US should be aware that the FCRA specifies that background checks cannot be used against an applicant if the information is inaccurate or not up to date. With courthouses closed, there’s a risk of disputes arising from using records used are not compliant because they can’t be verified during the closures.
The same goes for educational background checks with universities and other institutions also working in limited capacity.