As the world begins to reopen and a return to work becomes possible for many employees, companies face how to handle temporary furloughs and what has become a rehiring process at their sites.
In these unprecedented times, companies may not have specific policies around rescreening employees following a return from furlough. When evaluating how to go about welcoming those furlough employees back, there are several things to keep in mind, not to mention laws related to COVID-19 that must be considered before performing new background checks.
Look to Existing Policies
Without updating your screening policy, what do your current employee contracts state about a return from furlough?
Some companies already have measures to allow for rescreening employees following a certain amount of days on furlough. For example, for more than 60 or 90 days, employees on furlough may have already signed that they would need to go back through an onboarding or rehiring process upon their return, including background checks.
If no policy around furloughed workers currently exists at your company, it is past time to create one, to ensure there are steps for employees and employers to follow for the next time a worker is furloughed.
Reasons for Rescreening Employees
The exact reasons for a background check during the hiring process may apply following a return to work after an extended absence. As the pandemic has been an ongoing situation, with many employees away from their jobs for several months, even up to a year, it may be in the company’s best interests to treat that returning employee as a fresh hire.
Background checks can help keep other employees safe, reduce liability at an organization, and improve employees’ quality working at a company.
Legal Issues to Consider
There are several legal issues and regulations to consider when using a screening process with employees, whether they are new hires or temporary furloughs.
Per the Fair Credit Reporting Act, an employer must have authorization from the employee for background screenings. In many states, even if their contract terms included periodic background checks as a condition of their hiring, employers must receive authorization before any additional screening.
Companies must also consider any additional local or state regulations around using screening tools in the hiring process. Today, 36 states have approved what has become known as ”ban the box” laws that prohibit a potential hire’s criminal record from factoring into the hiring process’s early stages. In most of those states, employers may still require screenings following conditional hiring. Companies must navigate what state policy dictates on employee rights during a lengthy furlough when working with returning employees.
For example, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA or Act) requires that employers cover paid sick leave for their employees. They also must pay expanded family and medical leave if employees are unable to work due to reasons related to COVID-19. Some companies must then consider how and why employees are placed on furlough, on top of additional screening policies at their return.
Best Practices Following a Return From Furlough
To avoid potential legal or other issues related to rescreening employees, these are the best practices to follow:
- Be consistent: If you’re a company that would like to conduct periodic background checks no matter the employee’s status, make sure that language around your preferred screening process is part of company policy. Picking and choosing which employees to screen on a random basis can lead to discrimination claims.
- Be reasonable: Depending on the industry, you may not need to pursue the entire screening process upon returning to work. What are the concerns specific to your organization? Does COVID-19 testing factor into an employee’s return to work, for example, or is there a need for updated drug testing based on an employee’s job responsibilities? Is a criminal background check more important at your organization, as the employee’s role is security-heavy?
- Be knowledgeable: Are you following local and state policies around rescreening employees? Are you keeping up to date with changing policies around the COVID-19 pandemic and return-to-work legislation? Do you have the authorization to perform additional background checks on returning employees? Set yourself up for a good screening process by following state regulations, particularly related to sensitive health information.
Companies don’t need to be trendsetters when making decisions around the furloughed workforce, as many have now welcomed back employees following lengthy absences.
Guide decisions based on industry standards, follow legislative changes as they may arise, and reopen the economy. Consider updating company policy if you’ve found that language within employee contracts was insufficient at this moment. Think about looking to third-party entities if you’ve found you do need to update company-wide hiring and furlough policies, as it can be challenging to navigate compliance and legal obligations, particularly with so much in flux.
Navigating the Return to Work With DataCheck
Whether you want to ensure that you’re following current regulations as they relate to the pandemic or looking to adjust your in-house screening policies, DataCheck can help. We have over 20 years of experience working with companies seeking to improve their screening policies, even in uncertain times.
DataCheck can make sure that you’re doing what you need to do to keep your workplace safe and secure while respecting your employees’ rights, even after a lengthy furlough period.