Ikea France’s screening practices under the microscope

Ikea France has been ordered to pay €1.1m (approx. AU$1.74m) in fines and damages by a French court following a landmark case that centred on the company’s candidate screening practices.

A French court found Ikea guilty of paying private investigation firm Eirpace and police sources to gather personal information – including confidential police records – on at least 400 employees, job applicants and even customers in dispute with the company between 2009 and 2012.

In addition to illegally accessing police files, Ikea France allegedly viewed employees’ bank records without permission and fabricated reports against team members considered to be trouble makers.

The case saw two company executives convicted for their involvement, including former CEO Jean-Louis Baillot, who was ordered to pay €50,000 (approx. AU$80,000) and handed a suspended two-year prison term. Baillot was at the company helm when the screening practices were in place, but denies any knowledge of the illegal activity.

Accused of being at the heart of the spying scheme, Ikea’s former head of risk management Jean-Francois Paris, was handed a €10,000 (approx. AU$16,000) fine and a suspended 18-month prison term.

Both were found guilty of “receiving personal data by fraudulent means” although prosecutors were hoping for harsher penalties to use a strong message to corporations wanting to spy on their staff.

The difference between background screening and spying

Unlike private investigators, who delve into an individual or organisation’s business without knowledge or consent, background screening is conducted with consent and is simply a means of verifying information on an individual.

Additionally, background screening only verifies information against legally available sources (official departments and government bodies) and complies with strict personal data and privacy laws. These laws mandate what data can be gathered and also, how long it can be stored by a company.

For example, in Australia and New Zealand, data mined from National Police Checks (Criminal Record History & Traffic Checks in NZ) must be removed from third party servers after 12 months. This includes the removal of any identification documents collected as part of the check.

How background screening establishes a culture of trust

The benefit of thorough background screening is two-fold. Of course, the practice is a great way to assess if an individual has the qualifications, values and experience your organisation needs. But it also builds trust, both within your company and beyond.

How? There’s little that separates your company and the people who represent it. The way your staff conduct themselves has a direct impact on your company’s reputation and brand. Your company’s commitment to thorough background screening sets it apart as one that’s transparent and trustworthy. It ensures a safer workplace for your people, creates a culture based on honesty, integrity and trust, and staffs your business with the people who’ll best deliver your product or service to the community.

Having a clear, easy-to-follow background screening policy will ensure your approach to employee verification is transparent and consistent. It’s the best way to communicate with new and existing employees the reasons why background screening is important to your company, the types of checks that will be ordered (this will vary according to industry and role) and at what stage during the employment lifecycle checks will be conducted.

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