Employee screening can prevent a variety of unpleasant surprises

Paul Stretton-Stephens says that employee screening can prevent a variety of unpleasant surprises, and gives some tips on screening the screeners

According to recent surveys, well over two-thirds of all business fraud in the UK is committed by employees. And a MORI survey suggested that more than 7.5 million of Britain's 25.3 million working population have misled their potential employer when applying for a job.Every day, some job candidates and employees live a lie, one that could potentially cost their employer thousands of pounds. While most of your employees will be honest, it only takes one rogue to upset your operations. Normally, employers only find this out when it is too late.When an employer discovers a troublesome employee, they have a number of potential courses of action, the ultimate being dismissal. That dismissed employee will most likely then apply for a job elsewhere, and may well not disclose the chequered past. The question for potential employers is therefore, 'how do I really know that the candidates are who they say they are, and that there is nothing in their past that could affect their performance in the future?'For some employers the pain can be eased considerably with the use of employment screening, otherwise known as vetting or background checks. Increasingly, employers consider this to be an invaluable risk reduction tool. And both candidates and existing employees can be screened.What can screening uncover?
There are varying levels of screening services on the market, but essentially all employers believe that, when recruiting, it is fundamental to ensure that the candidates are who they claim to be. Too many employers have discovered that failure to verify a candidate's credentials, qualifications, background and the validity of referees, can seriously damage the smooth running of a business.Screening can only legally be performed with the candidate's permission, in order to assist the employer in finding the right person for the right position.In early 2002, we saw headlines such as:Teacher admits sex offences
Gambler stole to cover debt
US teacher sent home for club visit with boy
Woman stole
Rogue trader strikes again
Nurse force-fed disabled resident
Man made false documents
In the absence of effective employment screening, a business may risk becoming the subject of a similar headline.Employment screening is available to all businesses, regardless of the type and size. There are, of course, several types of business that commonly use screening, such as financial services, education, occupations involving work with vulnerable members of society and, increasingly, the retail sector.There is a clear reason why the retail sector is high on the list of users. According to the Centre for Retail Research, the UK is suffering from the worst retail theft in Western Europe (1.76% of turnover). The average loss for European retailers was 1.42% (about £17.7bn) a year. While nearly half of the thefts can be attributed to customers, staff theft accounts for 29%.Using agencies
When using recruitment or employment agencies - temporary or permanent - employers would do well to enquire what level of background checks their selected agency undertakes. Such services are not inexpensive, and it is perfectly reasonable for an employer to establish that they are receiving value for money. Moreover, employers need to know that every effort has been made to prevent future problems. No business likes unwanted surprises.Selecting a screening service
Employers should also take care when choosing an employment screening service. As in every industry, there are some rogues. Here are some simple guidelines for making your selection.

  • Ensure that the service provider is a legitimate company. Take extra care when a PO Box is used for the address.
  • Ensure that they are registered with the information commissioner under the Data Protection Act 1998. They should be able to provide you with a registration number that you can check on the Information Commissioners web site, (www.dataprotection.gov.uk).
  • Ensure that candidate consent forms are provided and processed.
  • Check for any hidden costs, especially if the candidate to be screened has a non-UK background.
  • Agree a fixed price and time frame before any checks are carried out.
  • If you need multiple checks, negotiate a volume discount. Check the service provider has the capacity to undertake the volume of work.
  • Request an employment screening sample report.
  • If you are employing staff who require an extensive background check, ensure that the service provider can conform to British Standard BS7858.Most employers recognise that they have a duty of care to their workers, customers and their bottom line, to find the right person for the right job. When you outsource to a screening service, expect them to operate in the same way your own internal department would if it was conducting the checks.When you have selected a screening service provider you will begin to receive employment screening reports. These should help you to benefit from a reduction in financial risk by minimising re-recruitment costs, legal costs, loss of business and reduced training budgets. Screening reduces staff turnover and facilitates the retention of staff.Other benefits from using employment screening that will enhance your competitiveness include the reduction of crime in the workplace, and greater security of assets (including information).FRAUD FACTS
  • In the UK and Germany, 70% of major companies reported that they had suffered economic crime in the last two years (PricewaterhouseCoopers)
  • Over 80% of significant corporate fraud is committed by employees, half of whom have spent five years or longer with the company (Ernst & Young)
  • Out of companies surveyed that had suffered fraud, 42% of incidents involved theft of stock, 33% cheque forgery and counterfeiting, and 24% kickbacks, bribes or secret commissions (KPMG)
  • Employees regarded as most trustworthy by managers are often the most likely workplace fraudsters (accountancy firm Chantrey Vellacott)EMPLOYEE DRUG USE FACTS
  • Employees who use drugs are over 3 times more likely to injure themselves or another person1 and have approx. 60% higher rates of absenteeism2
  • Up to 15% of workplace tests are positive3
  • Sick leave due to drug abuse affects 31% of UK companies41 US Dept. of Health and Human Services, report 1999, Center for Substance Abuse Prevention2 Journal of Applied Psychology (reported by Drug Education Training 2002)3 Home Office Forensic Science Service 19984Drugscope/Alcohol Concern joint survey August 2001INVESTIGATIONS
    In September 2002, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer produced a briefing on 'Employee Fraud: how to investigate successfully'. This gives a clear set of guidelines to help employers avoid exposure to claims for unfair dismissal or breach of contract. It can be downloaded from www.freshfields.com/ practice/epb/publications/pdfs/3769.pdfDEVELOPING AN ANTI-FRAUD POLICY
    Quorum Training offers a course for senior management who wish to create an anti-fraud culture and policy. The programme covers:THE PERSPECTIVE - Commercial change, the impact of 'right sizing', types and scale of fraud, company policy, management responsibility 21st CENTURY FRAUD - The international dimension, non-paper transactions, the internet, non-financial risks (reputation, information) THE FRAUD CONTINGENCY PLAN - Board responsibility, corporate anti-fraud policy, initial suspicion, the investigation team, confidentiality, criminal v civil remedies, managing publicity - internal and external TECHNIQUES FOR FRAUD PREVENTION & DETECTION - Anti-fraud culture, fraud awareness training, whistle blowing, the 'hotline' approach, pre-employment vetting, corporate fraud risk profile, databases and other anti-fraud tools.In 2003, the course will be held on 25 June and 17 November. Further information is available from Quorum Training Ltd, Tel: 020 7388 2044,Paul Stretton-Stephens is managing director of Purely Business Ltd, Tel: 01242 522010, E-mail: info@purelybusiness.biz