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2019 Background Screening Trends

2019 Background Screening Trends

While most Americans still prefer the security of full-time employment, trends suggest a sort of paradigm shift toward part-time, contingent work. Some predict that in the next decade, this could become the new normal of the U.S. workforce.

Trend #1: A Contingent Workforce

Looking at 2019 and beyond, trends employers need to keep an eye on include the contingent workforce (those who do not expect their jobs to last or who report that their jobs are temporary), a push for certain bans on employment application boxes and a rise in ex-offenders applying for jobs. All areas that will have a major effect on how companies hire – and retain – competent employees and contractors.

According to the latest research by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), contingent workers make up as much as 3.8 percent of the country’s workforce. Though, because many jobs in the Gig Economy – a highly mobile sector involved in technology platforms like web and app development – are not statistically measured by the BLS methodology, that number could be significantly higher. A 2017 study by the TurboTax parent firm, Intuit, predicts that as early as next year, 40 percent of American workers could consider themselves some type of independent contractor.

Why does this matter? Contingent workers place the same liability on a firm as its own employees do. To lessen risk, companies need to prepare through proper (and regular) screenings of all employees, regardless of their status within the company. Due to the nature of this new, more-transient workforce, pre-employment screenings are a must before anyone begins a new job in the workplace – be they full-time, part-time or contract workers.

Trend #2: “Ban the Box”

Another trend that seems to keep gaining momentum is the” ban the box” or “fair chance” campaign. “Ban the box” goes back to 2003 when organizers in California worked to reduce the stigma of those with criminal records during the employment process. In 2006, San Francisco became the first city (as well as the first county) to approve legislation to remove questions of prior arrests and convictions on employment applications. Today, that has grown to 33 states and more than 150 cities and counties that have adopted similar policies. In all, nearly 250 million people in the United States reside where some form of ban-the-box policy exists.

A second “ban the box” push comes in the form of salary history. These laws target pay discrimination by employers who may use the data on applications to set compensation. To date, there are 12 state and 10 local bans in place. Look for these numbers to grow as well in the coming years. Pre-employment screenings can help ensure a good fit for both applicant and employer. However, human resource professionals should also familiarize themselves with the laws in their particular states and jurisdictions to assure fair and legal hiring practices.

Trend #3: Unemployment for Ex-Offenders

As the national unemployment rate hovers just under four percent, one particular sector of the population comes in at nearly eight times that rate. As such, our third trend for 2019 looks at the growing number of ex-offenders applying for work. Research by prisonpolicy.org, a non-profit, non-partisan Prison Policy Initiative group out of Massachusetts, shows that ex-offenders unemployment rate is a startling 31.6 percent within the first two years of prison release. That surpasses even that of the country’s worst unemployment rate at the height of the Great Depression. Even four-plus years after leaving prison, the unemployment rate among ex-convicts is 13.6 percent.

Given these statistics, and the growing demand for prison reform both nationally and at the state level, it follows that a higher number of ex-offenders are looking to break the cycle of unemployment within their ranks. Hiring former inmates can carry a stigma, real or perceived. Employers need to consider many things when making this choice, including types of offenses and how they may relate to the duties of the position and who the hire may interact with, as well as time removed from incarceration. Even if your company still carries the former conviction box on applications, it is considered a best practice to remove it.

Outlook for 2019

With all of this said, there becomes an increasing need for careful, strategic pre-employment screenings. Companies have many obstacles to overcome throughout the hiring process. But finding the right employee the first time around, increases productivity, builds morale and saves money and time. Background screenings, done by professional firms, bring many resources to the table: competitive pricing, quick turnaround times and added depth to searching capabilities – all assets that we will discuss further in the coming weeks. As our economy and workplace continue to shift, employers owe it to themselves, their employees and potential applicants to do the right thing. And that includes professional background checks that produce sound, positive results.


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