Number of job applicants with criminal records increases


Thomas Hartleb, News24

Johannesburg – A total of 12% of people who have applied for jobs so far in 2015 have criminal records, a company that does background checks said on Monday.

Of the applicants with criminal records, the top three crimes were theft, assault and Road Traffic Act violations, said EMPS managing director Kirsten Halcrow.

In 2014, the company found 11% of applicants had criminal records.

Halcrow said the crimes were discovered in applications “from top to bottom”, from management to blue collar workers, and for jobs in fields such as retail, security companies and government.

The most criminal convictions (21%) were picked up in people applying for work as taxi drivers, followed by the motor industry (15%), courier companies (12%), and government departments, restaurants, and the security sector (all 11%).

Halcrow said EMPS, which has been in existence since 1981, processes about 20 000 requests for background checks a month.

Of the candidates with a criminal conviction, 38% were repeat offenders, with some applicants having up to 20 convictions.

A total of 7.6% of tertiary qualifications submitted so far this year could not be verified. Most were outright forgeries, bought from “degree mills” around the world. In other cases the institution that had awarded it no longer existed, or had not kept accurate records.

The number of forged matric certificates remained constant, at around 10% of applicants, said EMPS. Most of the certificates had symbols and subjects altered.

“The most common problem we find is that job applicants replace less desirable subjects with ones that are highly valued in the workplace such as maths and science,” Halcrow said.

Fake IDs

These were generally easy to spot because most of the alterations were amateurish, she said.

“Another issue we have to deal with is the growing number of fake South African IDs that are being used to secure jobs, mostly by illegal immigrants,” said Halcrow.

They were “almost impossible” to verify because home affairs had issued them and they were on the department’s database.

Halcrow said home affairs “was not a willing participant when it comes to that kind of thing”.

The company makes use of the police’s Automated Fingerprint Identification System to look for criminal convictions. Prior to 2011 they had only used a name and ID number to do their checks.

In cases where an offender did slip through, Halcrow said it could be because a potential employer did not take an applicants’ fingerprints properly and failed to capture enough detail.

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