Is it okay to do background checks after I have hired someone?

June 28, 2023

The background check is a staple of most recruitment processes – your follow-up to information provided within the job application and interviews to ensure it is all accurate and truthful.

HR research from 2020 found that 94% of employers carried out at least one form of check, whilst 73% had a full-blown screening process.

Performing the checks are not without their own issues though. There are numerous stories on the web of people with similar names to criminals being wrongly tarnished with their reputations. Give them a right to reply if they fail your checks.

In a competitive recruitment market, too, you may miss out on the best candidates if your vetting process takes too long.

One way to manage this second issue is to delay completing some of the checks until after employment has commenced (which would then, of course, be conditional on passing the checks).

What are the standard background checks that may be relevant?
While different roles will require different checks, some will be necessary or desirable for every employer.

“Right to work” checks are mandatory and all employers must complete them prior to employment. Fines of up to £20,000 per employee may be given to employers who employ people who do not have a right to work in the UK. We think it’s a good idea to ask them to bring them to the interview.

Beyond that, a standard set of background checks from which you may draw include:

Any further personal identification and tax details like national insurance number, that were not captured during the “right to work” check.
Verification of prior employment details.
Personal and professional references.
Verification of educational details, including qualifications.
DBS checks. Either standard or enhanced depending on the role (these are criminal record checks).
Driving licence/DVLA checks.
Credit references.
Fit and proper tests for Approved Persons at financial firms.
Drug tests.
Directorship suitability checks.
Let candidates know in advance what will be being checked, as it may save everybody time if they know how robust your processes are. Chancers can try their luck elsewhere!

Depending on the role you are filling, some of these background checks will be essential prior to a job starting.

For example, if the job involves working with children or vulnerable people, an enhanced DBS check will be required.

Similarly, if the role is as an Approved Person at an FCA regulated firm, a fit and proper person test will need to be completed first. And if the job revolves around driving, vetting what licence is held and any points accumulated should be completed.

More senior roles such as directorships would, as most would expect, require a more thorough upfront vetting process. With more at stake in the role, there is less room for error.

What checks can I carry out after I have hired someone?
Once you move beyond these mission critical checks, you may have more leeway for getting the rest completed. If they are important to the role you will still want to ensure they are done, but they don’t need to delay your recruitment process when timing may be of the essence.

These may include checks like education verification, employment history and the return of references. Just ensure the employee understands their continued employment is dependent on these being completed satisfactorily, and have this stated in the contract.

Continued background checks.
Further periodical background checks may be useful or vital for your business, for example, drug testing or annual credit checks for some positions. Make sure your policies or contract makes provisions for this.

There may also be milestones when further tests are appropriate for individuals, like a promotion to director or significant change in role – say taking on driving duties, and for this also checking the appropriate insurance is in place.

What if candidates ask you for a reference?
One final point. What if your candidates want to know what it is really like to work for you before committing?

It is much more likely nowadays, and in fact, they may not even ask you. Websites like provide an easy way for them to do their homework.

Good HR processes embedded in your business will help you be a great employer and a successful company that current and past employees speak positively about. Talk to us about our retained and pay-as-you-go services to see how we can help you shine.

Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce