Comparing Background Check Practices Around the World

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Background checking as a company in the global economy can be challenging. While pre-employment screening is common and legal in most countries, practices can vary from country to country based on cultural norms or government legislation.

One of the most comprehensive guides on global background checking practices, Mayer-Browns 2017 “A Global Guide to Background Checks”, highlights some interesting distinctions between the checking processes in different countries.

Investigating the employment screening practices in 10 separate screening areas including past employment, social media and drug and alcohol testing, the report is divided into the three different regions, the Americas, EMEA and Asia.

The most common type of background checks are education and past employment, these are standard practice and legal in most countries. But in some European countries even this most innocuous of practices is either uncommon or subject to strict legislation.

In Poland, no background checks are expressly permitted by law, and in Spain background checks are not standard practice and there is no provision for them under Spanish law. Background checks are permitted in Germany and Finland but all information much be obtained directly from the applicant unless express prior consent from the applicant has been obtained.

Carrying out health screening is one of the areas where practices vary the most. With over 50% of the Americas and Asia carrying out health screening as standard practice, it is common in only 16% of countries in EMEA.

Union membership and political views are the most commonly forbidden, with 72% of the 50 countries in the report prohibiting interview questions or screening of this nature.

Background screening appears to be the most tightly legislated in EMEA, with 36% of screening areas either prohibited or permitted only in extremely limited circumstances.

Americas and Asia are the most seasoned to background checking practices, with 33% of countries in both regions undertaking standard practice screening in the most areas of checks.

Background checking is a highly valuable tool and, in many cases, essential to make the right hiring decision. But with regulations varying widely from country to country, it is crucial to ensure that your pre-employment checking practices are in line with territorial laws. Using a specialist pre-screening company can help you make the right hiring decisions while staying on the right side of the law.