Who Is the Unseen Risk to Your Workplace?

HR Professional Magazine, March 2015 http://hrprofessiona ... workplace/

When asked whether or not they perform background screening on new hires, most businesses would say “Yes.”

It is estimated over 90% of companies did some sort of pre-employment screening before hiring an applicant. Pre-employment background screening is a broad term that encompasses criminal checks, assessment testing, drug screening, and education and employment verifications.  Properly utilizing a screening program protects a company from the risk of dangerous or unqualified hires, huge liabilities, and safety issues.

So, if they answer “yes”, the company is protected, right?

Not if you are letting contract and temporary workers slip through the cracks.

The majority of companies have people on their premises that are outsourced staff or sub-contracted workers who are not officially “company employees.” These are people who are employed by other companies, but provided as a service. Examples of these are office cleaning people, guards, gardeners, etc.

Sub-contracted or temporary employees offer positive benefits to the company culture. They provide the company with flexibility, nice grounds, and customer service during temporary busy periods, to name a few.

While all that is positive, these non-permanent employees can also be a detriment to a company’s safety and security if not screened properly. These individuals pose as much risk as any permanent staff member and very often are even more of a potential threat.

Here are five valid reasons why these employees are a concern:

The contract company may be cutting corners. The contract company could save a few dollars by not conducting proper background checks on their workers. They could possibly decide to not use a third party company that specializes in screening, opting to ‘do it themselves’. They could also run a background check that is not thorough or accurate. These supposed “cost-saving” decisions produce a greater likelihood of missing crucial information about the employee’s background.

These employees have just as much access. Outsourced, temporary, and contract staff often have free reign of the building. They have access to areas restricted to employees only. Cleaners, for example, have access to offices where sensitive information may be stored. Plant watering people have the same ability to roam freely through most company buildings. A dishonest person could have a heyday with this much freedom.

These employees are often less supervised. Contract workers frequently work after hours when company management is absent from the office. Cleaners and night guards, for example, are usually in the building when very few people are present. Again, this gives them even more opportunity to look through files for sensitive information than the average, full-time employee. A person of dubious character could hit a jackpot of valuable information from credit card numbers to sensitive company secrets, all without the company’s knowledge.

These employees are subject to the same stresses and issues. Contract workers are people just the same as full-time employees. They have the same financial stresses and are just as likely to have a drug or alcohol problem, or a criminal history. Issues like these can push a person to steal or commit fraud, especially if they have opportunity and think there is a high likelihood they won’t get caught.

Companies need to put a priority on who is allowed on their payroll, in their place of work, and access to potentially sensitive and valuable information. It is just as important-maybe even more so-to put measures in place to “weed out” any temporary, outsourced, or contract worker who poses a risk to the workplace.

What to do: here are three tips to increase the chance of contract employees being screened properly.


Make sure the contract company performs a background check. Review your contract with all outsourced companies that are your vendors. As part of service contracts, you should insist on screening as part of any agreement. Require that it clearly states the contract company is required to conduct background screening through a reputable third party background screening provider.


Your vendors must be thorough. A simple database search won’t fill the bill to ensure safe, trusted staff. Ask your vendors to list the specific types of information they collect on new hires. Good answers are county searches, drug testing, and employment verification. Bad answers are “a database search” or “we hire with our gut.”


Find out how often the company screens their staff. A red flag should go up if the vendor says they screen before hiring, and then they never conduct screening again. If their employees work there for several years (which is a good sign most of the time), who knows if they have been involved in high risk, illegal activities such as drug use? Look for contract outsourced companies that perform periodic screening in addition to pre-employment checks.

If you ask these questions and don’t like your vendor’s answers, consider….


Screen contract employees in-house. Conduct background screening on any and all employees who work for the company in the same manner, whether they are regular employees, outsourced or contract employees. This option is a little more costly to your company, however, you benefit by maintaining complete control over the screening process. You can choose the reputable third party background screening company that screens the employee AND the types of checks that you feel are appropriate. This process will help you maintain control, and minimize the risk of a bad hire and unsafe workplace.

Pre-employment screening is an integral part of today’s safe hiring process, as it minimizes the instances of turnover while offering a shield from litigation avoidance. It’s important to make certain ALL employees are screened in a proper, consistent manner. Putting these actions into place can reduce the risk of lawsuits, bad press, and safety issues.