Background screening during COVID-19: What changed and what stayed the same?

As we move further into 2020, employers and employees alike are looking forward to a future less dominated by the current COVID-19 crisis

Background screening during COVID-19: What changed and what stayed the same?

As we move further into 2020, employers and employees alike are looking forward to a future less dominated by the current COVID-19 crisis. Canada seems to be pulling out of the pandemic, with businesses ready to return to a new version of normality – one where workplace safety processes and procedures must take precedent. 

So, what exactly does this mean for future hires and the talent market? Specifically, how has COVID-19 impacted employee background screening?

HRD spoke to Iain Murray, sales director/vertical leader and Mark Sward, global head of privacy, at Sterling Backcheck - hosts of our upcoming webinar ‘Background Screening during COVID-19: What changed and what stayed the same?’

Mark revealed to HRD the common pitfalls employers stumble across when it comes to background screening.

“When it comes to background screening in Canada, employers struggle with balancing business needs and risk mitigation with individual privacy and human rights,” he prefaced.

“These challenges can be overcome by documenting clear and well justified screening policies, with safeguards in place to ensure Canadian privacy principles are integrated into the process (for example, by providing clear notice to individuals and limiting data collection, retention and access) and unintentional bias is taken out of the equation (for example, by separating the primary decision maker and the person responsible for reviewing potentially adverse background check results).

“Employers also can have difficulty meeting U.S.-driven screening requirements with Canadian products, and often must educate their U.S.-based parent companies or clients as to the realities of screening in Canada and how to adapt U.S.-focused polices for Canadian realities.”

And these potential liabilities have only been heightened since the COVID-19 crisis. Speaking to Iain, he advocated that employers make super special considerations for any workers returning to the office.

“Aside from all social distancing protocols and new policies to promote healthy workplaces, employers are tasked with ensuring staffing levels are appropriate after months away from the office,” he explained. “This may involve screening employees who are returning after significant time off, or when bringing on brand new hires. Employers will need to conduct interviews remotely and ensure their background screening process are completed online as well.”

To this, Mark added the employers need to ensure they’re following relevant federal and provincial guidelines on health and safety.

“If they put in place testing protocols, they should do so in a way that respects the privacy and human rights of their employees,” he added. “For example, they should allow employees as much choice as possible around what health information to disclose, conduct testing in private, and ensure that disclosure of test results is minimized. Provincial and federal privacy commissioners’ guidance on how to respect employees’ privacy in the age of COVID-19 may be useful to employers.”

As for the future of background screening, our experts suggest a reliance on streamlined technology to help ease an already complicated process.

“Background screening in Canada will become more electronic,” revealed Mark, “with the RCMP and employers moving to much more sophisticated digital identity verification and moving away from looking at physical ID cards.

“Additionally, employers will have to work closely with their background screening partners to ensure their programs comply with evolving privacy laws, as federal and provincial legislatures begin to modernize these laws and put in place much more robust enforcement mechanisms.”

To hear more on the importance of thorough background screening during COVID-19, sign up to Sterling Backcheck’s upcoming webinar here.

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