“The HR issues being experienced by the South African Police Service (SAPS) currently, namely cops having criminal records and/or pending cases, aren’t an isolated or unique occurrence,” says Ina van der Merwe, the chief executive of Managed Integrity Evaluation (MIE). “In fact, I challenge any equally large employer to undergo similar scrutiny and emerge unscathed.”
According to MIE’s latest Background Screening Index, 16% of all prospective employees indicate risk in terms of criminal records. While the incidence of criminal records among SAPS’ employees is less than 1% of the total force (ie, 157 518), the cops with criminal records and the case of Lieutenant-General Zuma highlight the importance of background screening before employment and doing rechecks at regular intervals during employment.
While background screening before employment is fairly commonplace, doing rechecks at regular intervals during employment lacks the same recognition. Circumstances change. And since there are very few employees who would have the courage to take the proverbial bull by the horns by voluntarily coming forward and disclosing a newly acquired criminal record, turning a blind eye to the possibility is a high-risk strategy in this day and age, especially when managing the risk is convenient, cost-effective, easy and quick.
Firstly, employment contracts should be drafted in such a way that they stipulate rechecks at regular intervals, like quarterly or twice yearly. An evergreen consent form for the duration of employment should also be included.
Secondly, where employees are being considered for promotion, specifically as the result of furthering their education, rechecks should be done as a matter of course, regardless of timing. In these instances, employers are urged to validate the authenticity of the qualification, as well as the validity of the academic institution conferring such.
Thirdly, the employment contract should outline the consequences of making any adverse findings. A few practical examples are demotion, redeployment and suspension pending the outcome of a disciplinary hearing.
An employee who has signed a contract of employment including all of the above principles will have a set of digitally captured fingerprints that can be automatically processed at the agreed pre-determined times by a background screening company. This will be done via Afiswitch, which is the online interface that links the employee’s demographics and fingerprints with the SAPS system. (Presently, Afiswitch processes up to 6000 criminal record checks daily.) A report, confirming the presence of risk or no risk, will be provided in less than 48 hours. Where risk is flagged, a request for further information will reveal the specifics, like conviction, incarceration or pending case, enabling the employer to make an informed decision regarding the best way forward.
“Transparency is key to building employer/employee relationships that don’t hide any nasty surprises down the line. However, keeping a clean house is an ongoing challenge that can be proactively managed by HR leaders who are committed to developing progressive policies and procedures that embrace doing rechecks at regular intervals during employment,” adds Van der Merwe.
MIE processes approximately 10 000 checks a day. The five most popular are criminal records, drivers’ licences and qualifications (secondary and tertiary), as well as credit histories and references. The capability of being able to initiate checks online is convenient, cost-effective, easy and quick.
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