Perhaps I should have called this post, “The Easy Way is Not Always the Right Way”. Cat stories seem to resonate with readers and my experience with Tolstoy illustrates my point.
This week, I had a couple of interactions with clients that caused me concern. In both cases, the client was clueless about how their global background screening was being conducted. One client shifted their business away from us to an easier method. The other client is frustrated with us.
In a few countries, there are multiple methods to (legally) conduct a criminal record check. Perhaps one option is the Ministry of Justice or the police to obtain a Certificate of Criminal History. Or that country may have a court system that is publicly available, and the criminal history can be obtained via a court search. There may even be proprietary databases that are put together by commercial entities which contain aggregated criminal histories, although this is extremely rare. And then there are the criminality databases, which may be offered as a criminal record check. (This is something I do not condone since this is representing a media review as a criminal record check. Call a media check a media check.) Having multiple options to (legally) conduct a criminal search is rare but it is possible. In the United Kingdom, I am not sure multiple (legal) options exist as I have not found that court searches are allowable for employment screening, aggregated criminal databases would probably not be allowed due to the data protection requirements, and the official process for criminal record history for employment purposes is the Certificate of Criminal History.
The past couple of years have brought more complexity to criminal record checks, especially in the EU. Some of this happened because of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) implementation. The changes in the UK, brought on by Disclosure Scotland no longer applying England and Wales Spend Record Regime timeframes to results, have made UK criminal searches very difficult. If the job is in England or Wales, we must use the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) as the source. The ordering requirements are onerous, especially since DBS requires an in-person ID check against original documents. If the job is outside of England or Wales, we use Disclosure Scotland. The ordering requirements are still onerous, but the identity verification can be conducted with copies submitted to us. The ordering requirements and the designation of the source are not our doing. These are the requirements from the sources.
Back to the story about clients.
One client is new to us. They submitted their first search to us and it was…a UK criminal record search with the subject working in England. The client failed to conduct the required in-person ID check. They are exasperated; “How are we supposed to get this done when we are running the screening out of a different country?” I asked if they had a UK office and they replied “yes”. I’m puzzled. Why not send the candidate to the UK office for the in-person ID check? The client indicated they had hired staff for their England office in 2018, which means they would have been subjected to the new DBS requirements. But clearly, they knew nothing about these requirements. Apparently, everything was taken care of by their previous provider. It’s possible the previous provider did the in-person ID check for them. Wouldn’t the employer have known that was happening? Or did the previous provider take the easy route and send the searches via Disclosure Scotland? It’s not allowed, but I know it has been done. Disclosure Scotland has started to reject these searches, which means sneaking them through is more difficult.
The second client was screening individuals who were required to have a different level of criminal check in the UK. The process is even more onerous than the regular search. This client took their business elsewhere when I enforced the requirements.
Now let me tell you about my cat Tolstoy. He came to us as a 12-year-old very overweight cat who had been abandoned at our vet. That part of the story is not as tragic as it sounds. His previous owner did the best she could for him under difficult, personal circumstances. She knew he would not be put down if he was left at the vet. And indeed, he came into our loving home. (After Tolstoy died, with a lot of research, we were able to find his previous owner and let her know he had a wonderful 5 years.) Tolstoy wasn’t with us for a full year before he tore his ACL. Our vet had changed hands, and the new owner happened to be a veterinary orthopedic surgeon who had performed 50 ACL surgeries, including 10 on cats. After his surgery, Tolstoy had a 2-month recovery, which included rehab. Yes, rehab for a cat. He was confined to a room where we placed a mattress on the floor so that one of us could sleep with him when he was struggling.
A couple of weeks post-op, we were instructed to have him walk, but only in a straight line. This is a cat, remember. We are supposed to have him exercise, but he can only walk in a straight line. We solved the straight-line problem by putting Tolstoy in a harness and leash and putting his food bowl straight ahead of him. He loved food and wasn’t a Rubenesque cat for nothing. And a straight-line walk we had. Where there was a will, there was a way, and we were determined. After a year, you would never be able to tell which leg had the surgery. No limp, no limitation of movement. Just a happy, active, and slightly slimmer cat.
Somehow, as service providers, we need to help employers understand that the proper way to conduct background screening may not be the easiest way to get it done. We should always look for easier ways to process work, not only for the employers but also to make it easier on the data subjects. Challenge a process, yes. Ignore requirements that come from above, no.
And employers need to be more involved in the screening process. It’s tempting to push it all off to the screening provider, but screening all over the world is becoming more complex. If the process seems difficult and someone offers a very easy process, take some time to understand the difference. Why is one provider requiring an onerous process and one making it easy? Certainly, some providers have created excellent systems to take some of the pain out of the screening process. But sometimes the easier way to get things done may not be the right way.
Kerstin Bagus – Director, Global Initiatives
Kerstin Bagus supports ClearStar’s Global Screening Program as its Director of Global Initiatives. She has more than 30 years of background screening industry experience, working for a variety of firms, large and small. Kerstin is one of the few individuals in the industry who is privacy-certified through the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) for Canada, the EU, and the U.S.
Kerstin is a passionate participant in the Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA, formerly NAPBS) and is a current member of the Board, in addition to participating on several committees. She also participates on IFDAT’s Legal Committee, with a primary focus on global data privacy.
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