09 Apr Screening future employees
THE issue of pre-employment background checks has taken centre stage following the murder of a 17-year-old girl by her 20-year-old boyfriend, who was a security guard at a primary school in Penang. The tragedy invites these questions: why wasn’t this individual, who had a criminal record, screened by the security firm that hired him? And, if a criminal record check was carried out, how did the assailant escape detection? It is critical that security firms conduct background checks on potential employees because there have been too many cases of people making false claims on their applications or attempting to cover up prior criminal activities. Screening adults who work with youngsters in schools, childcare centres, camps and recreational programmes is a given. Few would object to this common-sense precaution, and anyone who does is welcome to refrain from applying for a job at such places or volunteering as a coach or counsellor. There are too many predators out there and parents want an assurance that their children are in a safe environment when they are away from the kids.
If background checks haven’t been done on applicants who want to work with the young, then why are they necessary? It is our duty to prevent a child from being abused by a trusted adult. Child-molesting scandals here and abroad have taught us not to rely on those who we expect to be good. We have learned the hard way to be especially wary of those who seem honest. The painful truth is that what appears to be kindness can be a mask put on by a predator to win the confidence of victims. It is, indeed, a disgusting and offensive way to treat youngsters. Schools and other educational institutions have a moral and legal obligation to ensure a safe environment for their charges. They must find out whether a potential employee has been involved in criminal or other inappropriate activities, such as theft or substance abuse, or has reckless or violent tendencies, to determine if the applicant is suitable for the work environment. Although pre-employment background checks have become a matter of necessity for many companies in Malaysia, it is not mandatory.
The implementation of the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) 2010 is said to be the stumbling block. Employers may not get answers when carrying out reference checks as previous bosses are fearful of violating the act if they reveal their former employees’ personal information. Most employers obtain consent from applicants or existing employees before disclosing or verifying personal data. The penalty for breaching PDPA is a hefty fine and, possibly, imprisonment — a complete turn-off for employers. Other obstacles include time and money, as well as potential mistakes that could cost an employer a good hire. It is essential to examine these issues with a view to drafting practical guidelines and regulations before incorporating background checks in the hiring process. Globalisation and the employment of foreigners are pressing matters that require immediate attention. The consequences of extending trust where it is not deserved are too horrifying to contemplate.
Source : New Straits Times