Nuggets of Insight
|Over the years, screening practices have changed for several reasons, according to the Statscan study, including:
- Changes in the industry and occupation job mix.
- Improvements in detecting health conditions and drug or alcohol abuse.
- Increased access to personal, financial, criminal, and other records.
Among the other results of the study:
- Security screening increased with workplace size, used 18 per cent of the time at companies with at least 500 employees but just eight per cent in workplaces with fewer than 20 employees.
- Medical examinations also increase with workplace size, being used for 30 per cent of new hires in large companies and only two percent in small companies.
- Drug tests are now required for roughly one in 50 job applicants and rise to nearly one in 10 in primary product manufacturing industries.
- Security checks were highest in: communications and other utilities (30%); education/ health (24%) and finance/insurance (19%). They were used least in retail trade and consumer services (7%).
Canadian employers are increasingly running security checks on new hires. In fact, more job applicants are being subjected to that type of screening than medical exams.
Statistics Canada compared hiring practices over a 20-year period and found that before 1980, about 25 percent of people underwent a medical examination, while only five per cent underwent a security check. By 2000 and 2001, the proportion that had undergone a security check had doubled to 12 per cent, most notably among individuals applying for positions in teaching, health care, law enforcement and information technology.
Meantime, the proportion undergoing medical exams dropped to 11 per cent. (See right-hand box for more results of the recent study based on the Workplace and Employee Survey.)
Of course, hiring decisions aren’t always based on intense screening. In some instances, finding the right person for the job is a simple matter of an interview and a test of knowledge or skills.
But more rigorous screening may be required for other positions. For example, drug tests for pilots or truck drivers, health exams for fire fighters and security checks for bank tellers and information technology staff.
As an employer, you have a duty to check backgrounds for the sake of your customers, other employees and investors. In addition, solid background checking practices can help decrease employee turnover and the costs of hiring, training and internal fraud.
In Canada, background checks are generally legal as long as they comply with:
- The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA).
- Rulings of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.
- Canadian federal and provincial human rights codes or acts.
Background assessments are also legal provided they are not influenced by race, religion or ethnicity and all applicants to a similar position are treated equally.
With that in mind, it is essential that everyone in your company follow a consistent hiring process. Discrepancies in the process can lead to damaging risks such as negligent hiring suits and dishonest workers’ compensation claims.
Consider a hiring reference guide for managers that includes interviewing techniques, employment screening policies and lists of questions that can and cannot be asked.
Your company’s reference guide can also include red flags that may be uncovered during a background check. Here are some guidelines for handling the following eight red flags when considering applicants:
1. Previous Employment
- The applicant quit his or her most recent job without notice.
- The former employer hesitates to answer the question: “Would your rehire this person?”
- Title and wages of previous job differ from what the applicant reported.
- The previous employer is looking for the return of merchandise or repayment of a loan.
- The applicant is in litigation with a previous employer.
Try to get references from three to five previous employers. But keep in mind that if you ask for references and don’t check them, you risk liability. In cases when it was reasonably necessary to check references and an employer failed to do so, courts have held the employer liable for the improper acts of the employee.
2. A Criminal Record
You can check past criminal activity by contacting local police or law enforcement agencies, but you must have the candidate sign a release to obtain the information. You cannot, however, deny a position because of:
- A conviction under a federal law, such as the Criminal Code or the Narcotics Control Act, for which a pardon has been granted, or
- A conviction for a provincial offence, unless the conviction will affect the applicant’s ability to do the job. You can refuse to hire someone based on criminal convictions when there is no pardon.
3. Driving Record
- A revoked or suspended license.
- An applicant lies about his or her class of license – for example claiming to have a license to drive a bus with more than 24 passengers while in fact having only a license to drive passenger cars and light trucks.
- An applicant held a license in another province but failed to mention that province on the job application or resume.
- A verified grade point average is discovered to be 0.5 or more points lower than the applicant’s claim.
- There is no evidence of a degree the applicant claims to have.
- Dates of attendance claimed by the applicant differ by more than two months.
- References are contacted and say they don’t know the applicant.
- No references can be reached.
6. Professional Licences and Credentials
- A licence was never granted or is no longer valid.
- The applicant’s licence is restricted.
- Records indicate that legal/civil action was taken against applicant.
7. Social Insurance Number (SIN)/ Address
- A SIN that does not match the one provided by the applicant.
- An indication that the SIN was used fraudulently.
- Addresses don’t match data on the application.
8. Credit Report
A problematic credit history may be inappropriate for employees in certain positions. You can conduct credit checks but you are required by law to notify applicants or current employees in writing and provide the name of the consumer reporting agency.