Last Updated : Oct 12, 2018 10:59 AM IST | Source:

#MeToo | Companies increase background checks; past cases may be reopened

This will mean that there will be higher scrutiny on the behaviour of the recruits, both at senior and junior levels

M Saraswathy @maamitalks

With several cases of #MeToo surfacing against individuals on social media, companies are not just strengthening background verification of prospective recruits,  but are also reopening cases to avoid any legal liabilities.

This will mean greater scrutiny of the behavior of potential hires, both senior and junior. Companies are can pulled up for inaction against employee misconduct.

Rahul Belwalkar, CEO of background verification firm SecUR Credentials, said that the #MeToo movement has garnered a lot of well-deserved attention, leading to many corporates across sectors reinforcing their existing policies on due diligence.

"In fact, some companies are reopening cases of past sexual harassment and looking at them in a new light to ensure that the current workplace is kept free from unwanted elements," he said.

The #Metoo movement took shape in India in earlier this month after actress Tanushree Dutta accused co-star Nana Patekar of inappropriate behaviour while shooting for a film.

This was followed by a barrage of several other names cropping up, including those of several journalists, standup comedians and entertainment industry professionals.

Belwalkar explained that it is through background checks that companies get to know of any liabilities the candidate is likely to bring with him, of which past cases of sexual harassment is a part.

Sunil Goel, Managing Director, GlobalHunt, said that cases of sexual harassment reported to the police are criminal offences and will be identified during verification checks.

However, he added that in case a matter is not reported to the authorities or has been settled, it is a challenge to get access to that data.

The Prevention of Sexual Harassment Act has disallowed companies from naming victims in cases. However, nothing stops them from naming the offender.

As part of reference checks, HR managers can call up past organisations to check for this kind of information. Typically, if serious offences have been reported, the person is not hired.

Companies have also started conducting thorough checks on social media to look for any potential information through which inaccuracies can be brought out. For instance, using certain words for a woman could be seen as acceptable in a private setting but not on a public forum.

Saundarya Rajesh, Founder-President, AVTAR Group, said companies do a broad social media scan, but that may not always reveal the true picture. AVTAR, which works for women's rights in the workplace, looks at HR policies followed by companies and their impact on employees.

For new hires, companies look at past court cases, police complaints, as well as previous employer reference checks. Belwalkar said it would not be incorrect to state that there is a correlation between the rise in companies voluntarily opting for background screening and the rise in the number of #MeToo cases.

He also said that the fact that adherence to global best practices is not just a matter of branding but makes business sense, is making companies adopt due diligence in a big way in India.
First Published on Oct 11, 2018 07:24 pm
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