The Ins and Outs of Employee Background Checks

For businesses, onboarding new staff is an exciting moment. Despite all the advantages of bringing in new talent, there is a tremendous level of caution that must be exercised to ensure the person you’re hiring is who they say they are. This may all seem rather cynical, but it is an unfortunate reality that people do fabricate, exaggerate, and conceal details on their resumes.

Background checks allow you to double-check information on your new hire and uncover any crucial factors that may have been overlooked. Failure to check a candidate’s background before hiring them can put your team, organization, and clients at risk. A breach in compliance is most usually caused by a failure to conduct background checks and confirm the proper qualifications, visas, and work experience were provided.

The financial industry, in particular, is required to verify employees who conduct regulated activities are fit and appropriate pursuant to the requirements specified by the Monetary Authority of Singapore. But even if compliance isn’t a concern, companies don’t want to hire someone who is untrustworthy. It is considerably more difficult and expensive to fire someone who has misrepresented themselves after they’ve been hired than it is to not hire them in the first place. The bottom line is that dealing with information fraud before making an employment offer is preferable to dealing with it afterwards.

Basics of Conducting Background Checks

It is necessary to adhere to the regulations in Singapore that relate to background checks to avoid unlawful enquiries that can result in legal action against your company. Singapore’s Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) and Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices (TGFEP) defines the limits on collecting and processing information and thus provides the framework within which to conduct background checks:

Obtaining Permission

Personal data cannot be collected, used, or disclosed without prior consent and that the potential candidate fully understands and agrees to the reason for which their personal data will be obtained. Regarding the collection of data that is publicly available, permission from the individual is not required but it is best practice to get consent in writing.

Limitation Search

Personal data should only be collected for appropriate reasons and where the individual is informed. Organizations should not request information that is unrelated to reviewing an applicant for a position as this could lead to discrimination.

Data Access and Accuracy

Every individual has the right to access and correct any personal data held by the company. Furthermore, organizations should ensure that the personal data collected is correct and complete if it is going to be the basis on which a decision is made.

Data Security

Organizations must protect personal data from unauthorized access, use, disclosure, modification, retention, and disposal. Personal data may only be transferred outside of Singapore if certain conditions are met, such as the individual’s agreement or enforceable company laws.

Common Types of Background Checks

Before going ahead with conducting one or more of the following background checks, it is important to note that investigative activities that violate the PDPA can result in financial penalties and injunctions. The Personal Data Protection Commission enforces the PDPA and has the authority to investigate complaints from applicants and apply the appropriate sanctions. Individuals who incur a direct loss or harm as a result of a breach of the PDPA can file action against the potential employer.

Education and Qualifications

In Singapore, verifying education and qualifications are the most common background checks performed. This is done through the SGP Ministry of Education or Council for Private Education and general information on dates enrolled, education level, and qualification can be confirmed.

Previous Employment

The applicant’s employment history is usually substantiated by contacting the HR department of the former employer. They can verify the duration of employment, the position held, salary, conduct, and reason for leaving. Over and above the requirements for the financial industry, as regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the level of information offered by previous employers is dependent on company policy.

Criminal Records

In Singapore, individuals obtain their own Certificate of Clearance (CoC) from the Singapore Police Force. The police do not comply with requests by private companies or other third parties to vet a person for a criminal record search. Some offenses are automatically dissolved after 5 years depending on several factors and so, may allow a person to get their CoC.

Bankruptcy and Credit Checks

These are important searches only if the candidate’s position requires them to deal with financial data of the organization and its customers. A bankruptcy search is done through the Ministry of Law Insolvency Office’s E-Services and credit checks can only be done through the Credit Bureau Singapore and the DP Credit Bureau.

Tools for HR

KRIS Document Management System (DMS) is a highly effective HR tool for organizations to properly secure personal data belonging to potential, current, and past employees. Because it is important to create, implement, and set accessibility to PDPA policies and practices, KRIS provides the environment in which documentation can be updated, tracked, and made available to authorized staff. Additionally, templates can be developed and consistently used to ensure compliance with every background check.

Disclaimer: This article is for general information purposes only and not intended as legal advice. Due to the complexities of the relevant laws and regulations, always refer to the current guidelines set out by the Personal Data Protection Commissioner and other government agencies to comply with requirements.






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