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SHRM: Employers Slow to Pick Up Trend of Continuous Screening

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​In an effort to keep customers safe, Uber announced its continuous screening program in July 2018. More big-name companies are expected to announce screening implementations this year to ensure employees are licensed and authorized to work and have not committed any crimes since they were hired.

The trend hasn't caught on among most companies yet, though, as only 4 percent of 6,500 HR professionals said that their organizations perform continuous, rolling background checks on their employees, according to a survey conducted in July 2018 and released by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) today.

The transportation industry reported the highest frequency of rolling background checks, followed by utilities, government agencies, accommodation and food services, and construction.

"In certain regulated industries, some form of continuous screening has been a standard practice," said Angela Preston, senior vice president and counsel for corporate ethics and compliance at Sterling, a global employment screening firm and the board chair of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners. "The technology is not necessarily new, but it is definitely improving, making those systems easier, faster, cheaper and more accessible, which has generated more awareness of it and demand for it from employers."

[SHRM members-only platform: SHRM Connect]

SHRM found that the great majority of organizations (92 percent) conduct background checks, mostly at the pre-employment stage (87 percent). Nearly all screens are searches for criminal records (98 percent). Fifteen percent of respondents said they rescreen workers annually, 13 percent perform checks when triggered by an event, and 10 percent screen when someone is promoted or changes jobs.

"Periodic rescreening was adopted mostly by companies in regulated or high-risk industries like health care organizations, transportation companies, and financial institutions," said Jason Morris, an employment-screening consultant and industry expert with Morris Group Consulting, based in Cleveland. "A rescreen is fairly similar to the pre-hire background screen—employee names are searched against relevant datasets to find potential criminal activity, driving incidents, and sanctions that occurred after the employee was hired."

But rescreening is expensive, Morris said, and it still leaves employers exposed to risk. "If a company rescreens its employees every two years, and an employee is charged with theft two days after being hired, the company would not know until the rescreen is run."

In comparison, continuous monitoring technology will alert an employer—through the employer's screening firm—within an hour of a worker being booked into jail, said Krisy Bucher, the director of marketing for Appriss Safety, a leading provider of the technology based in Louisville, Ky.

"Continuous monitoring is a critical evolution in the background screening industry," Morris said. "It will keep companies safer from fraud, theft and reputational damage."

It's another tool in HR's toolbox to ensure a safe workplace, especially for regulated industries and positions, Preston said. However, there are still a lot of compliance, legal and regulatory issues to consider.

"For example, with criminal information, if you are constantly monitoring, there are some that might say that every time you do that, it may constitute a new background check," she said, noting that there are some jurisdictions where you would have to get specific consent for that.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) allows for the initial disclosure and authorization form to cover continuing consent, but in California, for example, it's arguable that a new consent form is required each time a search is done.

Preston added that employers would have to also consider other state and local ban-the-box laws that limit the ability to ask about criminal records or make criminal inquiries without having consent or additional notification requirements in place.

In addition, reporting on and taking action on arrest information could be problematic in the eyes of regulators, but these issues can be overcome under certain narrow exemptions to the FCRA and the way an employer's screening program is designed.

For some companies, culture-fit may also be an issue. "Some employees won't like the idea of being monitored," Preston said. "But there are ways to address that, making sure the right policy and communication is in place, and making sure employees are aware of what it is and what it isn't."

SHRM found that 74 percent of organizations have a formal background check policy and 3.5 percent of those address rolling background checks in their policies.

It remains to be seen what role continuous monitoring plays in the future of screening, Preston said. "It does call attention to the fact that one-and-done is no longer sufficient to really ensure due diligence in providing a safe workplace," she added.

"The need for pre-employment screening will not be eliminated," said Nick Fishman, the president of HR technology consulting firm Fishman Group Consultants and a background screening industry expert. "But I think it will become more commonplace for employers to understand they have a responsibility to pay attention to what their employees are doing post-hire."


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