Posts Tagged ‘background checking’

International Talent Acquisition, Europe, and Recruitment Law


It’s said that the EU makes 70% of new English law nowadays, so employment law around Europe must be the same, right? Data protection & privacy legislation, as examples, have been brought in from Brussels, so what we do here in the UK must be okay in Germany, France and elsewhere in Europe, surely? I’ve just completed some work for a global Financial Services market leader who has upgraded its talent acquisition system to MrTedTalentLink, and the findings are fascinating. They can have a massive impact on your bottom line. And your career.

Their remit to me was to look at variations around their European offices in discrimination, graduates, interviewing, background checking, rejection of candidates, data protection, and unionisation, to help improve compliance in their talent acquisition process. The issue of temp/contractor/interim talent acquisition was not part of the current remit, and so was ignored, but will be in the future, so if you want information on this, please let me know.

The information following is a summary only, and if you are concerned for your own company, discuss it at DRTT, consult a solicitor, and do NOT depend on what I have said here! MrTed Limited is certainly not liable for any comments in this paper. This piece, therefore, is just to stimulate discussion ….


Writing job advertisements was the first thing we learnt when we all started out in recruitment, and I’m sure a lot of us have made our reputations on our ability to write compelling copy that has attracted top talent. But did you know that in Belgium, an employer can be held liable for a recruitment agency’s discriminatory copy? This is the case in Germany too.  In Belgium and France, because the language forces every noun to be either masculine or feminine, it also means that copy needs to be altered to either include both (eg “employé(e)”): extra creativity is needed in writing job advertisements in French! And they must be written using French words to protect the linguistic heritage. I got the feeling that in their Spanish office, my client was less worried about discriminatory language: one of them said that they encourage their women to wear a dress or skirt when visiting clients “because that’s what our clients would want”.


This is the area where there is little difference in law, practice or nuance. All countries are officially concerned not to be discriminatory against older people, women or ethnic minorities (as they have less access to Universities), but in France there is no case law to back this up. Only in the UK is there a case, and that was concerning giving equal consideration to graduates from outside the EEA and the use of the Right To Work Killer Question

Many employers seem to ring-fence graduate talent acquisition (separate section on the career site, specialist magazines, visits to some universities but not others, graduate open days, and so on) and nobody has been prosecuted for discrimination. What, after all, has a graduate in International Politics got to offer that any other human being has not?! I can’t help but feel that that the whole idea of graduate recruitment – as against apprentice recruitment which is made available for all – could be akin to an old wartime bomb that has lain dormant for years and could indeed lie dormant forever, but could also blow up any time, especially now in the crush for jobs ….


In France, you must invite alumni of less than a year and existing staff to apply before you can go external. The Dutch have a recruitment code that needs to be ticked off in interview. Spain has no legal criteria for the selection of applicants for interview!

Background Checking

You cannot check a Belgian’s background without their consent; if a Belgian candidate doesn’t give details of a former employer, you cannot check it, which means that if you find out about a previous job from information not supplied by the candidate, you cannot use it in your selection criteria. You may only check criminal and medical histories if those aspects are relevant to the job. French employers give employees that are leaving a work certificate specifying the role and the dates, and prospective employers can ask to see these certificates. If detail on the CV is later found to be inaccurate, you cannot fire the employee unless the detail is pertinent to doing the job. Bankers must provide copies of their police records. Transport people must submit to drug tests. Prospective German employers can check with previous employers, and can make a positive medical certificate a precondition of employment. Only government departments can see a full criminal record, the private sector only a shortened version. All background data on an employee must be deleted once they leave, and on unsuccessful candidates immediately once the recruitment process is over, and may only be kept in case the employer needs to protect themselves against a discrimination claim. It is forbidden to check criminal records in Italy, unless a clean criminal record is warranted for the job. Dutch employers can require a candidate to show a Good Conduct certificate from the Ministry of Justice. Lying about past criminal convictions is not a justification for firing someone. No Spanish employer can make checks without the consent of the candidate, except for the banks. British companies can ask for medical records where consent is given, and criminal records as pre-conditions to offering a job even if they are irrelevant to the job. A candidate does not need to disclose spent convictions. CV details can be verified without consent of the candidate. Lying on a CV is grounds for summary dismissal, even if irrelevant to the job.

Rejection of Candidates

The issue of discrimination looms large in all EU countries, but each has a different twist on how much liability the employer has, and different timeframes after which a claim for rejection on discriminatory grounds can be lodged. Germany is the most interesting, in that rejected candidates can have their documents returned and get expenses for attending interviews. In Italy, the courts can force an employer to take someone on, though this has only actually happened in the public sector; companies are compelled to pay compensation.

Data Protection

You cannot collect or store information on Belgian candidates without their consent. This information must be deleted once the candidate is no longer a target for recruitment. French employers can store information for two years. Dutch employers should return or delete data within four weeks of the end of the recruitment process. Data on German candidates should be deleted as soon as they are not being considered for employment, though it should be noted that this sits in contradiction with the employer’s right to protect itself against claims of discrimination by which they would need to store data for so long as they could be claimed against. In the UK, data can be stored for up to 12 months, but only a few employers actually abide by this rule, and I don’t know of any employer that has been successfully prosecuted for holding data for longer. We all know of recruitment agencies who store data forever!


Workers Councils in Germany must be shown the papers of all applicants who can be hired only with the consent of the Council. The end-to-end recruitment process must be approved by Dutch unions, which includes any changes.