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CIPD publishes social media guidance for pre-employment checks

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Guidance for employers on what constitutes good practice when conducting pre-employment checks on job applicants has been published today by the CIPD.

Drawing on consultations with HR professionals and employment lawyers, Pre-employment checks: an employers guide, offers advice to employers who are struggling to keep up with the pace of change in recruitment methods.

The guidance comes as research published last week by the CIPD found that two in five employers look at potential candidates' online activity or profiles to inform recruitment decisions, but few inform applicants as a matter of course that this is being done.

The guide highlights the need for HR professionals and others involved in recruitment to exercise due diligence to find out if applicants might bring the organisation into disrepute, or cause difficulties with managers, colleagues, customer and suppliers.

It also highlights the legal risks and ethical challenges involved if inappropriate steps are taken or applicants are not made aware of the checks being carried out and given a chance to respond to findings.

Key recommendations include:

  • Employers can help to manage the risks of candidate dishonesty by using declarations of truth and ensuring employees give permission to allow employers to research their qualifications, experience, dates of employment, and right to work in the UK.
  • Employers should take reasonable steps to validate the accuracy of information accessed online.
  • A distinction should be drawn by employers between social media for mainly private purposes and social media for mainly professional purposes (e.g. employers can check LinkedIn but not Facebook).
  • Employers should seek employment references once a job offer has been made, not prior to interview.
  • Employers should apply the same level of care in avoiding unconscious bias and discrimination when online checks are being conducted, as they do when conducting face-to-face interviews or other aspects of the recruitment process.

Mike Emmott, employment law adviser at the CIPD, said: "There's an increasing public recognition of the need for employers to adopt practices that are both legal and ethical when conducting pre-employment checks.

"It's important that employers take an active approach to researching an applicant's background to avoid problems further down the line."