When using a contractor network to deliver, service, install and support your products, a key component of your risk mitigation program should include background checks. But, if you do conduct background checks, how long do contractor background checks last?
What is a Contractor?
The term “contractors” refers to the network of individuals who are engaged with servicing companies who conduct specific tasks for your organization but who are not directly employed by you. They are not supervised or managed by your staff, and you may never even meet them, so completing a background check can be a valuable way to mitigate operational, legal, and compliance risks.
It is important to understand that background checks are a point-in-time search of historical data. This means that as soon as the report is issued, it is technically out-of-date as anything could change from that point forward. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, (FCRA), which governs the creation and use of background, or consumer, reports, there is an obligation to obtain information that is considered complete and up-to-date. For a background check, the timing of conducting the checks, issuing the report, and making the decision can take several days or a week but this is still considered up-to-date information. Using this same information six months later, however, would carry the risk that it may no longer be considered accurate and complete. Things change, people’s lives and circumstances change, and that could prove detrimental to your organization if you are relying on outdated or incomplete information.
How Long do Contractor Background Checks Last?
There are no local, state, or federal laws that define how long a background check is valid, but a generally accepted practice is that once it is used for the purposes it was originally obtained, for example, to determine contractor eligibility, its validity has been satisfied. Given the arm’s length relationship your organization has with contractors, and the perceived additional risk that may carry, a prudent question to ask may be, “how can we continue to protect our organization after the initial background check?”
Background Screening: a Key Part of Your Risk Management Program
The most common way many organizations continue to protect their operations is by conducting regular and fulsome rescreenings. This is the process of conducting another background check at intervals over the term of the relationship with the contractor. A commonly accepted timeframe for this is about 2 years. This means that assuming an individual meets the initial requirements to participate in your network, they would rescreen again at years 2, 4, 6, etc. as long as they remain in your program. Again, this information will prove useful for another point-in-time report but it would recheck everything that had been checked previously and look to identify any changes or errors.
The rescreen ensures that even if things have changed in an individual’s background, it is regularly reviewed and a decision can be made if any provided information is relevant. A murder conviction that arises between rescreens may be a concern but one Driving Under the Influence conviction may not be as impactful. The important thing is to have the information available to determine what may be relevant and what is not. Along with this information, you will now also have an ongoing experience with the contractor’s work that can be used in determining relevance.
A more proactive approach can also be added to your risk mitigation program and that is continuous criminal record monitoring. Continuous criminal monitoring is a Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) compliant service that provides near real-time alerts on U.S. arrest, booking, or incarceration activity that occurs within a contracted service network. Using the individual’s name, and date of birth, this service will provide access to data from US county jails, courts, and Department of Corrections facilities. The continuous monitoring will typically provide notice to PlusOne within 24 hours of incarceration, booking, or another relevant event. While this monitoring is limited to county court-level records, that is where the most activity between screenings is likely to occur.
Should You Add Continuous Criminal Monitoring to Your Program?
The addition of monitoring to an organization’s risk mitigation program provides a more proactive method to mitigate operational, legal, reputational, and financial risk across their service network between the full background screenings which are often completed every two years. Monitoring does not replace a comprehensive background check but the most active area of issues that are seen in networks tends to occur at the county criminal level.
By providing data to organizations during this interim timeframe between background checks, they can determine if there is a more immediate element of risk that needs to be addressed. In some cases, the issue may not be relevant or of impact. In other cases, a customer may decide to monitor the issue through the judicial process or even take immediate action to remove the contractor from their service network.
As you can see, the answer to how long background checks last can be easily improved with the addition of such efforts as a rescreening program and a continuous criminal record monitoring program.
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