With the 2022 workforce screening regulations introduced and more updates on the horizon, these continually expanding requirements are simultaneously making workplaces safer and HR departments more overburdened. Pre-employment screenings are essential for ensuring potential candidates are suitable and safe choices, but how can employee services workers meet the ever-increasing expectations and still avoid burn out?
The Fundamentals of Vetting New Employees
Pre-employment checks are a fundamental part of the recruitment process and can be handled internally or through a third-party agency. Every industry has different check requirements, depending on whether their potential employees are going to work with children, become part of government services, or are from another country. (Australian National Character Check, 2023)
Depending on legislation, pre-employment screening is down to the employer’s discretion. But there is a legal and ethical responsibility to avoid risk and assess thoroughly. (NSW Government: Public Service Commission, 2023)
Recent Changes That Made Checks Role-Specific
The Australian regulations around workforce screening were updated in 2022. The 2006 standards mostly focused on identity, credentials, and security risk. However, the changes expanded the framework to address the applicant’s suitability for the specific role. For example, in the past an employer could verify someone’s driver’s license, professional memberships, and qualifications, and that would be satisfactory—now they also need to consider their suitability for the particular role. (Braithwaite, 2023)
The Most Common Pre-employment Checks
- Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check/ police check: This check will be a fundamental requirement for most roles, as it is considered the most important pre-employment assessment in Australia.
- Visa Entitlement Verification Online: The Australian Government penalises organisations that hire illegal workers, so it is essential for risk management to check the potential employee’s right to work in Australia.
- Working with Children Check: These checks are essential for roles that relate to working with children, as they help to protect the safety of children under the care of an organisation.
- NDIS Worker Screening Check: When you’re hiring someone to work under the NDIS, there is a specific risk assessment check that ensures they are reliable and safe enough to work with people with disability.
- Psychological assessment: If necessary, you can conduct psychological evaluations to assess the candidate’s personality. A common example is the Meyers-Briggs test.
- Medical check: For roles that include exposure to chemicals, particular kinds of environments, or physically and mentally challenging routines, organisations need to request a medical test.
- Employment history check: This is the common process of verifying the candidate’s previous place of employment and ensuring they have not lied about their title, salary scale, or achievements.
- Security check: For roles where the employee will be handling sensitive information, it’s recommended that employers run a security check to give them clearance.
- Professional membership check: For industries that need employees to have membership with a professional body, you must make sure the candidate actually has one.
(Australian National Character Check, 2023)
The Result of Extensive Checks: Overwhelm and Burn Out
The growing pre-employment check requirements are having a significant impact on understaffed employment services departments. A 2023 study by Executive Networks found HR leaders were the most burnt out of all the professionals surveyed. The HR workers reported expanding workloads and lack of budget to meet requirements as the main causes of their overwhelm. (Zielinski, 2023)
These findings were mirrored by Headspace, with their 2023 report finding that ‘HR teams are facing increasing pressure to support employees amid constant change, layoffs, and evolving workplace dynamics.’ They are taking the responsibility of providing emotional support for employees suffering in tumultuous times, while still working to meet their own responsibilities. (Headspace, 2023)
Modern Employment Services Solutions Can Relieve Pressure
As the responsibilities of HR professionals evolve and the strictness of pre-employment checks increases, the industry has found technological solutions. Employment services are adopting tools that reduce the volume of the manual administrative tasks that are contributing to overwhelming workloads.
The intention of modern HR tools is not only to shrink oppressive workloads, but to create the space for HR professionals to focus on high-value tasks that improve the organisation’s growth and increase their own enjoyment of the role. (Zielinski, 2023)
Evelyn McMullen, a research manager for Miami-based Nucleus Research, says “Introducing more automation can open up HR staff to the part of their jobs they really love and can re-engage them if they’re burned out. The more you automate the mundane, the more you also empower HR teams to take on strategic initiatives that might have otherwise stayed on the back burner.” (Zielinski, 2023)
“A Turn of the Tide: Employee Mental Health in 2023”. Headspace. (2023). https://organizations.headspace.com/blog/a-turn-of-the-tide-employee-mental-health-in-2023
Braithwaite, D. (2023, November 18). AS4811: Are you familiar with the new Workforce Screening Standard?. Veremark. https://www.veremark.com/blog/as4811-are-you-familiar-with-the-new-workforce-screening-standard
“Pre-employment screening checks”. NSW Government: Public Service Commission. (2023). https://www.psc.nsw.gov.au/workforce-management/recruitment/recruitment-and-selection-guide/deciding-and-appointing/pre-employment-screening-checks
“Pre-employment Screening in Australia”. Australian National Character Check. (2023). https://www.australiannationalcharactercheck.com.au/Pre-Employment-Screening-Australia.html
Zielinski, D. (2023, September 5). Is Technology the Answer to HR’s Growing Burnout Problem?. SHRM: HR Magazine. https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/fall-2023/pages/can-artificial-intelligence-solve-hrs-burnout-problem.aspx