There is more than one approach to employment screening. Companies that fail
to take the correct approach to responsible hiring can lose a great deal
through theft, lost time and increased insurance premiums because of a high
rate of compensation claims. Workplace violence can also cost, not only in
terms of lost hours and reputation, but in terms of negligent hiring lawsuits
through a lack of an adequate employment screening procedure.
What are required are a firm employment policy and a strong approach to
misbehavior and violence in the workplace. Companies who specialize in
employment screening will be able to help you to take the first step by
instituting a strong pre-employment policy. Application forms should be
carefully designed and worded to make it clear that those with a record of
violence and theft need not apply. It should make your employment screening
policy clear to all prospective employees and explain the strict reference
checks you will be making on all applicants.
The application form should state that your company takes a zero tolerance
approach to workplace violence and theft, with a clear statement of that policy
and your commitment to employment screening. All offenders will be prosecuted
and fired and that all rights that the law allows you to withdraw shall be
withdrawn, including pension rights if applicable. Where relevant, unions
should be consultant and agreement reached.
Such policies have much more effect when they are presented as a combined
policy by the employers and the employees’ union. Although unions have no
right to be involved in employment screening procedures, they should be
involved in matters that affect existing employees, and there is no reason why
they should not support you.
It should be made clear that all applicants will be subject to the most
stringent background checks. You should state that all references will be taken
up and that no residential or employment gaps for the past seven to ten years
(state which), without documentation explaining them, will be accepted. You
should also state that criminal and driving records will be searched.
In this way you will discourage any applicants with something in their past
that they would prefer you not to know. Your employment screening policy should
be sufficient to deter all but the most determined, and designed not only to
identify those that you should not employ, but also to protect existing
The policy must also be applied to existing employees; it should be made
clear to them that you have a zero tolerance policy, and everybody who
perpetrates any act of violence will be fired without notice, as will anybody
found guilty of theft. State that this will be applied irrespective of costs in
loss of production or even in legal costs required to facilitate dismissal
In this way your company should be able to filter out many job applicants
who would otherwise have continued with their application. What it will not do
is reduce the screening required, since every prospective employee will still
need to have the full range of employment checks carried out. There will,
however, be more confidence that you have filtered out everybody you
Employees will be more likely to back you up in your drive against workplace
violence and theft, and even the authorities will be less motivated to
prosecute you in the event of an incident should you be seen to be promoting
this form of zero-tolerance approach to the problem.
Your employment screening and zero tolerance policy can be reinforced during
the interview stage. The interviewer should be well trained and be able to make
psychological assessments and use behavioral interview techniques to screen out
applicants who may be prone to violent actions. Any candidates used to
displaying aggressive and hostile behavior should be identified, and a true
zero-tolerance policy would not employ them, even on the understanding that
violent behavior will not be tolerated.
Much of this may well be controversial in approach but that is not the
point. Your company has a right to employ whoever it likes, so long as no form
of prejudice against race, gender or religion is involved. You should use
whatever employment screening methods that are at your disposal to make your
workplace as safe as possible for your employees, and that duty of care extends
to protecting them from violent or intimidating behavior from other
The methods you choose to do this must be legal, but must also be
sufficiently vigorous as to achieve the desired end. That end is a workplace
with a zero tolerance approach to violence and theft, which makes it safer for
employees and more productive for employers, while reducing the risk of
Violence in the workplace is costing companies too much money to approach
the problem lightly. You either adopt a zero-tolerance approach with your
employment screening or you do not.
There are no half measures.