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Comprehensive Guide to Conducting Background Checks in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Regarding working conditions, it is one of the best places to relocate for employment.  Its workforce provides a pool of talented and hardworking individuals. This makes it an ideal location for global employers and entrepreneurs to seek skilled professionals. 

Global companies have to comply with the local regulations in Hong Kong while hiring. Conducting background checks is a part of the responsible hiring process. This practice can help avoid difficulties while managing a team globally. 

Therefore, it is crucial to understand the laws revolving around background checks in Hong Kong. Here is a comprehensive guide mentioning information related to employee screening in Hong Kong. 

What is Employment Background Verification?

Background verification is collecting, storing, and processing personal and professional data of a current or potential employee. Employers conduct this process to verify academic information, employment records, credit records, criminal records, etc. Companies also analyze employees’ personal and professional behavioral traits during a background check. 

Conducting such checks before hiring candidates to maintain workplace integrity is crucial. Moreover, hiring the right people for the job is essential to maintain productivity.  Employers can verify this while conducting background searches. 

The employee screening process varies from industry to industry based on local regulations. Companies have to abide by local laws while conducting background checks. 

There are many ways in which companies can conduct employee background checks. They can do this by setting up an HR department or outsourcing it to experts conducting employee screening.

Nowadays, most companies are partnering with such third-party firms to ensure compliance while saving resources. 

Benefits of Background Checks in Hong Kong

Following are the benefits of conducting a pre-employment background check in Hong Kong.

  • Maintain the standard of job applications
  • Many employers have noted that mentioning background checks in their job descriptions has improved the quality of applications. 
  • This reduces the number of applications with information discrepancies in fields like employment history and academic qualification.

Saves resources and time

  • Hiring unfit candidates for a position disrupts productivity and leads to repeating the hiring process. 
  • Employers have to invest a significant amount of time and resources in hiring processes. And repeating such processes is more expensive.  So, hiring the right candidate the first time is best. 
  • Employers can hire candidates with the most relevant experience and qualifications by conducting background checks during interviews. 

Avoid liabilities

  • Background searches are one of the precautionary measures that companies take. 
  • Employers can verify a candidate’s criminal and financial records to protect the company from legal and financial liabilities. 
  • Employers can create a safe workplace for all employees by carefully screening new candidates. 

Employers can conduct background checks in Hong Kong in compliance with local rules and regulations.

There is no legislation to govern employee screening here. However, employers must ensure compliance with data privacy legislation Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance (PDPO). Companies must also be cautious about the legislation for discrimination while conducting such searches.

Employers require the applicant’s consent while conducting these background checks in Hong Kong. They also have to inform the candidate of the purpose of collecting their personal data. Companies should also ensure they take all the necessary steps to protect the data and not keep it longer than required. 

Candidates should be able to access their data to make corrections wherever applicable. 

There are protected attributes mentioned in the Employment Ordinance and the four anti-discrimination ordinances ensuring employers treat employees equally.

Things to Consider When Performing a Background Check in Hong Kong

Here are the things companies have to look after while conducting employee background screening in Hong Kong. 

Criminal record

  • Third parties cannot conduct a criminal background check in Hong Kong on a candidate. 
  • However, companies can make a condition that employees must show that they have no criminal record. 
  • Then, the employees or potential candidates can apply for a Data Access Request (DAR) with the police department in Hong Kong. 
  • The candidates can also mention the employer as the “Relevant Person” to lodge the DAR. 
  • The police department will provide the documents with the requested personal data for a fee. 
  • A candidate is not obligated to disclose “spent” convictions to a direct question or voluntarily. Furthermore, employers cannot dismiss a candidate on such grounds. 
  • A ‘spent’ conviction refers to
    1. A sentence that did not exceed three months
    2. A fine that was not more than HK$ 10,000
    3. They did not commit any other offense in Hong Kong.
    4. A period of three years has elapsed since
  • Hiring for a licensed position in the finance sector or positions related to being a lawyer, insurance broker, or accountant is an exception to this rule. 

Social media check 

  • Companies can conduct social media checks. They can view publicly accessible information on social media platforms during an HR background check in Hong Kong. 
  • However, employers have to ensure that the collection of this personal data is mandatory for employment. 
  • While conducting such searches on social media, employers can come across some personally protected attributes of the individual. 
  • Employers must maintain caution to not discriminate against candidates for any protected attributes.

Credit report

  • Employers can check a candidate’s financial records as part of the company background check in Hong Kong. 
  • There are no restrictions on conducting such searches. However, employers must comply with the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance (PDPO) while doing so. 
  • Conducting credit checks is crucial for executive-level positions or finance-related positions in a company. It helps in avoiding financial liabilities in the future. 

Employment history

  • As per Hong Kong’s background check laws, there are no restrictions on checking employment history. 
  • Companies can conduct employee background checks in Hong Kong to verify employment history. They can verify various details like past employers, duration of employment, etc. 
  • Employers may also contact references from past companies.  

Education History

  • Employers can verify an employee’s academic degrees and certificates mentioned in their resumes.
  • They can also verify their qualifications by contacting the educational institutes mentioned by candidates. 

Information Essential for a Background Check in Hong Kong

Before conducting employee screening in Hong Kong, employers must inform the candidates via personal information collection statements. It is always a good practice to get consent in written form before conducting such searches. 

Here are a few things employers require to conduct a background check in Hong Kong:

  • Applicant’s name (English or Chinese)
  • Date of birth
  • Hong Kong identity card (HKIC or HKID) issued by the Immigration Department 
  • Details for academic qualification like school name, major, date of attendance, location, and release form.
  • Details of past employment like name of the employer, contact information, release form, and date of employment.

Further, employers must conduct medical checks in compliance with the Disability Discrimination Ordinance (DDO) and Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance. Employers can seek medical information relevant to the job application only. 

Process Involved in Background Checks in Hong Kong 

You can follow the process outlined below while conducting employee background checks in Hong Kong. 

Step 1: Build an in-house team or partner with a third-party firm

  • Companies can hire an in-house team to conduct background checks in Hong Kong. 
  • Most companies partner with third-party solutions specializing in compliance strategies and background checks. 
  • Companies must inform the candidate via personal information collection statement of the reasons for conducting background checks. 
  • Employers must also ask for consent before proceeding. 
  • It is highly advisable and a responsible practice to get written consent. 

Step 3: Collect all data for processing

  • Employers can gather relevant documents depending on the types of background checks. 
  • Companies have to ensure compliance with the PDPO while storing and processing data. 
  • Employers should also remember to keep the information with themselves for only as long as necessary. 

Step 4: Conduct background checks

  • Employers can proceed with background checks once they procure all documents. 

Industries and Situations That are Most Suitable for Background Checks in Hong Kong

Background checks are not mandatory in Hong Kong. However, they are a crucial part of responsible hiring practices. Therefore, all employers are encouraged to conduct background checks while hiring.

Employers can conduct criminal background checks in Hong Kong for industries prone to legal liabilities. Childcare, education, healthcare, etc., are examples of such sectors.

Companies can check financial records for executive positions or vacancies in finance-related jobs like accountants.    

How Multiplier Helps With Background Checks

Complying with local rules and regulations is mandatory while hiring globally. Language barriers and difficulty while understanding the local laws leave the company vulnerable to legal and financial liabilities. 

To avoid such complications while conducting background checks in Hong Kong, employers can connect with firms like Multiplier. 

While Multiplier doesn’t directly assist in background screening, we have trusted partners for global employment and hiring abroad. 

Apart from that, Multiplier offers payroll management services as per local regulations. We provide services in more than 150 countries, including Hong Kong.

Frequently Asked Questions

No. However, employers can ask candidates to show they do not possess a criminal record.

The protected attributes are sex, marital status, pregnancy, disability, family status, race, and union membership.

The time to complete a background check in Hong Kong can vary depending on how extensive the search is. Typically, it can take up to 7 business days to complete a background search.

Need help hiring in Hong Kong?

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