Why is screening and vetting potential employees important?

Employers are often looking to expand their workforce, improve operations, or even strategically employ seasonal employees during busy or high-demand periods. However, during this exercise, employers also often overlook the process of employee screening and vetting. With the employment framework being affected by myriad factors, proper screening and vetting of employees has become increasingly important.

Critical Importance of Rigorous Employee Screening

Proper screening and vetting of employees are essential aspects of the hiring process, as this can improve workplace safety, ensure that an employer is legally compliant, and assist employers in maintaining the reputation they have built for themselves. If done right, screening and vetting can reduce staff turnover and associated costs, putting an employer one step ahead of the pack regarding responsible and strategic workforce development and management.

On a practical level, vetting and screening also become important when considering the latest Background Screening Index (BSI) reports released by Managed Integrity Evaluation (MIE), which show a tremendous uptake in the employee embellishment of qualifications and employment experience from 2022 to 2023. As South Africa’s labour market makes it increasingly difficult for employees to find employment, more employees start to embellish their qualifications in their CVs while being dishonest about past employment experiences and backgrounds.

Criminal Background and Document Verification

The reports also indicate caution on the side of well-prepared employers that prioritise employee screening and vetting, as the most requested check through MIE’s system was that of potential employees’ criminal backgrounds, i.e., the criminal verification check, and checks for the validity of a potential employee’s accompanying documentation. 

These reports show a positive correlation between criminal verification and background checks requested by employers and them finding suitable talent after exhausting screening and vetting checks.

Case Study

The case of Umgeni Water v Naidoo and Another (11489/2017P) [2022] ZAKZPHC 72 (15 December 2022) serves as a practical example of the importance of proper screening and vetting of employees. In this case, the employee was appointed as one of the employer’s annual graduate programme members, and one of the requirements for admission was that each candidate must possess at least a degree in chemical engineering.

He attached a falsified chemical engineering degree on the employee’s application form, which he claimed was conferred on him by UKZN (University of Kwa-Zulu Natal). Some eight years later, the validity of this qualification was tested when the employee applied for the process technician position. 

Case Findings

Upon closer investigation, it became clear that UKZN had no records of the employee being awarded the degree. When the employer wanted to sue the employee for money paid to him during his employment, in the amount of R2 203 565.04, the employer had to recover the latter amount from the employee’s pension fund. Had the employer utilised proper screening and vetting measures eight years prior, they would have been able to detect that the employee’s qualification was falsified, and they could have prevented lengthy legal proceedings and associated costs.

Overall, screening and vetting should be an integral part of any employer’s hiring and onboarding processes, as not only can these processes ensure that an employer employs the right employees, but, more importantly, they can protect employers from employing the wrong employees and suffering operational and reputational damage in the process.

If you would like to find out more about how to vet and screen prospective employers, then please feel free to contact us.