4 Best Practices for Closing the Health Care Temporary Worker Screening Gap

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According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the number of temporary workers has dramatically increased over previous years. After the economic downturn in 2004, temporary workers accounted for only seven percent of all new jobs created. Since the most recent economic downturn, temporary workers have taken 26 percent of all new jobs.

In the health care industry especially, according to studies by the Association of American Medical Colleges and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, organizations face a projected shortage of doctors and nurses in the next few years.

This dearth is mostly due to the increasing number of baby boomer workers that are retiring, and the demand is further driven by a large portion of the population reaching age 65 and needing specialized cared due to complex or chronic conditions.

According to the HireRight Health Care Spotlight, based on HireRight’s 2011 Employment Screening Benchmarking Report, 13 percent of survey respondents reported that their non-employees make up 11 to 20 percent of their workforce. Over 61 percent of survey respondents said their contingent workforce is between 1 and 10 percent of their staff.

Why Temporary Worker Screening Matters
The projected increase and current use of non-employees warrants a closer look at health care screening practices for temporary workers. According to the HireRight Health Care Spotlight, 62 percent of employers said they screen non-employees and another 3 percent said that they planned to in the future. This leaves a critical gap of 35 percent of respondents that do not have a background screening policy in place for their contingent workforce.

In a 2005 HireRight Extended Workforce Study, the risk of finding a felony record in the background screen report on a contingent worker was 92 percent higher than with a regular full-time hire. And, finding a misdemeanor or drug record during a background screen on a contingent employee was 50% higher. To mitigate the risk to patient and employee safety, employers should consider a careful screening of non-employees.

Other risks of not properly background screening temporary workers may include non-compliance with regulations resulting in a loss of Medicare and Medicaid privileges, time-consuming and costly audits, civil monetary penalties (fines), damage to the organization’s reputation, and negligent hiring claims.

Since many health care organizations rely on third-party vendors to hire contract workers, there are unique challenges to setting up comprehensive background screening policies for vendors and their workers.

4 Best Practices for Screening Contract Workers
So how do health care organizations tackle the challenges and risks of temporary worker screening? Below are four approaches that organizations are taking to close the gap between employee and non-employee screening and to mitigate hiring risks:

1. Partner with a Screening Provider
Organizations are closely working with an automated background screening solutions provider such as HireRight. Instead of relying on the varying quality and frequency of screening from third-party staffing firms, a company like HireRight can help build a streamlined policy and process that includes employee, contract worker, and vendor populations.

The health care organization will gain an automated solution with one screening view for both employees and contract workers that improves the efficiency of human resources personnel.

2. Establish a Policy
Decide which background checks and screenings are necessary to help ensure quality hires. Get your executive and legal teams involved, and consider the expertise of a reliable background screening provider, to be sure the policy addresses state and federal regulations and follows best practices.

Then draft a policy that clearly outlines all the points that pre-hire screening and post-hire screening need to cover. Create controls for human resources personnel to ensure your standards are met. For example, do not issue access badges to new hires until they have been completely cleared through pre-hire screening.

3. Get Vendors Involved
The policy you create will serve as a guide for internal background checks and also background checks completed by outside staffing firms. Notify all of your third-party vendors about your new background screening policy, allow them an appropriate amount of time to meet your new requirements and update your contracts to mandate that all vendors meet your screening requirements.

If a vendor cannot meet your new temporary worker screening policy, then consider working with a screening provider to have those workers screened.

4. Conduct Ongoing Screening and Internal Audits
When an organization screens workers once during the hiring process, there is no guarantee that those workers will continue to behave with integrity in the coming years.

Draft a screening policy that calls for ongoing monitoring of temporary workers to minimize risks to the organization. It is also wise to set up internal audits of your temporary worker screening program, at least annually, to show that the organization and its vendors are meeting all the policy guidelines.

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HireRight is a leading provider of on-demand employment background checks, drug and health screening, and electronic Form I-9 and E-Verify solutions that help employers automate, manage and control background screening and related programs.

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The HireRight Blog is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be comprehensive, and is not a substitute for and should not be construed as legal advice. HireRight does not warrant any statements in the HireRight Blog. Any statutes or laws cited herein should be read in their entirety. You should direct to your own experienced legal counsel questions involving your organization’s compliance with or interpretation or application of laws or regulations and any additional legal requirements that may apply.