Being on the right side of POPIA with criminal, credit, and background checks

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Being on the right side of POPIA with criminal, credit, and background checks

There is no denying that background checks are highly intrusive, given the plethora of personal data that they reveal and require. Yet, in today's world, this type of check has become the norm: from job to university applications, even to verify certifications or be considered as a candidate for contractual work. Afterall, companies must take the necessary precautions to ensure that potential employees are legitimate.

In some cases, South African law dictates the need for background checks, while in other cases it forbids it. 


Typical background checks used in recruitment in South Africa

  • criminal record check
  • civil record check 
  • education 
  • employment history or professional body membership verification checks
  • credit check
  • ID verification check
  • social media checks

Organisations may choose to undertake their own background checks as opposed to using an agency - like RecruitMyMom - to conduct them.  In this case it is vital that the business stays on the right side of the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) when conducting any pre-employment screenings


Consent keeps employers on the right side of POPIA

It is essential that employers receive written consent from their employees (or prospective employees) before conducting any background checks. There may be occasion where the check is needed as part of the inherent job requirement, in which case consent is still required.


The value of conducting background checks for companies

According to Experian, a pre-employment credit check can help a prospective employer:

  • Verify an applicant’s identity
  • Gauge experience and ability in managing debt and paying bills
  • Assess a candidate’s overall reliability

This information is important for a prospective employer to make an informed decision before hiring a potential candidate, taking into account reputation protection, and mitigating risks for a business. Here’s why: 


Reputation protection and criminal checks

Criminal checks are important for protecting the reputation of your business. Hiring someone with a criminal record could potentially damage the reputation of your business, and may even result in legal action.  

Credit checks in accordance with the NCA

Credit checks are conducted to provide employers with information about an individual’s financial stability and responsibility. This information can be critical in  determining whether a candidate is a good fit for the job to which they are applying. Credit checks can also reveal information about their spending habits and level of debt.

However, employers should be aware that certain criteria must be met in order to have a credit check conducted. As a result, companies are forbidden from conducting these checks on every applicant.

In accordance with the National Credit Act (NCA), employers cannot conduct a credit check on a prospective employee without receiving explicit permission from said employee. Furthermore, the criteria strictly applies to employers looking to fill roles in the Financial Sector, Senior or Trust positions, and jobs which necessitate the handling of cash or finances.

It is essential for employers to be aware of these regulations, as failure to comply can amount to a breach of the NCA.

At RecruitMyMom, we offer all employers the service of conducting background checks, whether we place the candidate or not. We are an end to end full service recruitment agency.  By conducting these checks, employers are assured that they are hiring legitimate talent for the right roles, and that they are taking the necessary steps to protect their business and employees.