Managing Risk in a Global Marketplace: The Changing International Landscape for Background Screening

Posted Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014 by Sterling Talent Solutions

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Managing Risk in a Global Marketplace: The Changing International Landscape for Background Screening


While global migration is far from being a recent phenomenon, there has been a significant increase in the number of foreign-born workers over the last decade. In the United States, the U.S. Department of Labor indicates that, in 2013, there were 25.3 million foreign born workers in the U.S. labor force, comprising 16.3% in total. A similar picture is painted elsewhere, with The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford identifying an increase in foreign-born people of working age in the U.K. from 2.9 million in 1993 to more than 6 million in 2012.

What these statistics do not reveal is the considerably greater number of individuals who may have lived, worked or studied abroad. This is particularly prevalent in the European Union where the free movement of workers is a fundamental principle enshrined in the EU Treaties. EU nationals are entitled to look for a job in another EU country, work there without needing a work permit, reside there for that purpose, and even stay there after their employment has finished.

It is clear that the workforce is becoming more global, but what is the impact on the HR function, and recruiters in particular? For starters, hiring decisions are taking on an increasingly international dimension. While the need for an organization to carry out background checks on its candidates remains important (perhaps even more so than before), an organization’s background screening program must reflect the international trend in a more globalized workforce and accommodate cross-border elements.

The international legislative landscape for background screening can appear complex and difficult to understand, even for organizations with experience of grappling with international compliance issues. Organizations intending to implement a pre-employment screening program internationally must be conscious of complying with the applicable laws when determining what checks to carry out on candidates from different jurisdictions. Organizations will quickly discover that while some checks are perfectly acceptable in one jurisdiction, they may be irregular, and sometimes illegal, in another, thereby exposing organizations to increased scrutiny from national regulators, as well as costly and publicly damaging litigation.

There are many factors that an organization must consider when determining how best to implement a background screening program in another country. Generally, these factors can be divided into a two-stage process: (1) determining the law that applies to the background screening and recruitment process; and (2) determining the sector in which the organization operates, as well as the role and responsibilities of the candidate.

Key takeaways from the Managing Risk in a Global Marketplace report include:

  • How to determine the applicable national law. Including helpful examples of different business locations and employee locations and the appropriate law that will apply in each case.
  • Understanding local restrictions and determining which checks should form a part of a local background screening program.
  • Sector-specific considerations – the legislation which applies to specific industry sectors.
  • The role and responsibilities of the candidate – when a check is reasonable, relevant and necessary.

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This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.