How Long is a Background Check Valid For? What To Know

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Posted by: David Garcia

Topics: Background Check 101, Human Resources, Recruitment

If you need to maintain a safe and productive work environment, your employees must be trustworthy. Background checks can be an effective way of ensuring this. Background screening provides invaluable insight into who your applicants are and what their previous work experience has been.

But how long do background checks typically last? Is there a time limit on how long background checks are valid? And how often should you conduct employee investigations and screening for ongoing compliance with employment law

This article answers all those questions. Read on to find out more.

How Long is a Background Check Good For?

How a background check remains valid is difficult to define, but essential to assess. It varies widely by industry and organization, and many employers use the answers to shape their recruiting and retention strategies.

It’s a standard business practice to conduct pre-employment background checks on new employees at the time of hire. But businesses differ significantly in how they handle ongoing background checks.

The short and simple answer is that no federal or state laws require continual screening or establishing time limits for valid background checks.

According to SHRM, only 11% of companies retest current employees.

Some businesses do routine background checks on their workers every two years. Others conduct them every five years. Many organizations only do background checks on new recruits and never retest existing staff. They believe that there is no need to repeat a background check once they have investigated someone during the hiring process.

However, results may not always remain complete after — or even during — the background check process. What remains relevant and how long it's valid depends on several factors.

For example, if an applicant has committed a crime since their background check was conducted, the background check may contain outdated information and be invalid because any new convictions would not be present in the report.

Additionally, even if no criminal arrests or convictions have occurred since the background check was completed, it can become obsolete over time. People move around more frequently than organizations do and some information may be location-dependent.

According to most workplace safety and liability experts, companies should include a re-screening requirement in their background check procedures. This procedure should be implemented across all departments and levels of experience to ensure that the workplace is as safe as possible and that all employees are subject to the same level of scrutiny.

Why Is There a Time Limit on Background Checks?

Consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) may report civil lawsuits, civil judgments, and arrest records that occurred more than seven years before the report's opening date under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). There is no time restriction for criminal convictions.

While the FCRA allows CRAs to include criminal convictions dating back more than seven years, it's crucial to consider liability when dealing with sensitive data.

Employers should also consider US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidance, which enforces regulation against employment discrimination, and whether it is ethical to turn someone down based on an old criminal conviction. EEOC isn't just concerned with determining the severity and nature of the offense(s).

The time elapsed since the individual was convicted or completed their sentence must also be factored in by employers during the background screening.

How Often Should You Background Check Your Employees?

Ongoing background checks are the most effective approach to keep up with job-relevant life events such as arrests and convictions that may occur after current employees were initially screened for criminal records.

According to some experts, current employees should be re-screened for criminal background checks at least every two to seven years. Furthermore, because about 10% of all crime is now prosecuted in the Federal criminal justice system, all employee criminal background checks should include a check of the Federal criminal records in each state where the applicant has lived.

How To Stay Legally Compliant for Ongoing Background Checks

The EEOC has strict regulations regarding the steps employers must undertake for background checks and their access to employee information. These rules apply to initial and continuing background screening. Some key regulations to keep in mind include:

  • The employer must provide the employee with a written notice that their background check will be completed and might affect their employment eligibility. This notification must be a separate document from the employment application.
  • If a company's written policies state that employees must undergo continuing background checks, the condition must be stated plainly.
  • The employee must give written consent to the background check.
  • Employees have a right to know if personal interviews are conducted in order to get information about their reputation, lifestyle, or character.

In Conclusion

One of the most essential components of running an effective organization is recruiting competent individuals.

That is why thorough background checks are crucial to any company's onboarding procedure; they help identify possible risks before a problem even occurs.

It's also critical to note that continuous background check monitoring of employees can also contribute to ensuring a safe working environment.

Be sure to assess your company's needs to figure out which background check procedures are the best fit. Ongoing background screening may assist you in future staff recruiting and retention decisions.

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