Background Checks in Asia Pacific: 5 Considerations for Employers

human resource manager ticking checkboxes on an employee background checklist

A new era in data protection has arrived for the Asia Pacific (APAC) region, reshaping how employers approach background checks.  

Regulatory bodies in the region are increasingly vigilant in safeguarding not only consumer data but also employee data. For example, Hong Kong’s Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD) recently announced four investigations into improper retention and use of employees’ personal data.  

Companies in APAC should handle all HR data with utmost care and compliance. Employment background checks, while essential for informing hiring decisions, present a significant area of liability. Regardless of in-country regulations, our recommendation is always to gain explicit consent from applicants before initiating any form of background verification.    

In this blog post, we uncover five considerations for conducting background checks in APAC. We also provide a table outlining guidelines for selected countries in the region. By navigating these complexities with diligence and awareness, companies can mitigate risks and ensure compliance with evolving data protection regulations. 

Engaging a qualified third-party firm

It is essential that employment checks are conducted by a third-party background screening firm to ensure objectivity and authenticity. This practice can also help companies adhere to legal requirements and maintain the overall integrity of the process. 

Employers should engage reputable agencies and firms specialized in background screening within the specific jurisdiction at hand.  

Understanding different background checks and country-specific regulations

There are a range of employment background checks companies may conduct. Common checks include education and past employment records, criminal records and medical screenings.  

Local regulations govern different types of background checks in each jurisdiction. For instance, criminal background checks face restrictions in Hong Kong, South Korea and Singapore. In Japan, while a background check is sometimes permissible, it is not a common nor recommended practice.  

Social media checks are relatively but and on the rise, with additional regulations expected to be implemented in upcoming years. While the practice is generally permitted in all countries in APAC, there some jurisdictions, such as Hong Kong, where explicit consent from applicants is required. Employers should therefore exercise caution and ensure compliance with local laws before they start looking up candidates online. 

Clear and consistent internal policies

Employers should have clear and consistent policies outlining when and how background checks are conducted. These policies should be based on legitimate business reasons and relevant to the specific requirements of the position.  

Background checks should not be conducted on candidates indiscriminately or based on protected characteristics such as race, ethnicity, gender, age, disability or other factors unrelated to job performance. 

Managing the results of a background check

A structured process should be implemented for handling the outcomes of background checks. For example, if a candidate does not meet minimum qualifications due to issues revealed in the check (e.g., a serious criminal record or discrepancies in employment dates), employers should investigate further to understand the circumstances. It’s important to distinguish between genuine errors, outdated information or disqualifying factors that impact the hiring decision.  

Employers should also communicate results respectfully and in accordance with applicable laws, ensuring fairness and transparency throughout the process. 

Compliance with data privacy frameworks

Stringent regulatory frameworks govern the data collected from background checks. For instance, Hong Kong’s Personal Data Privacy Ordinance (PDPO) and South Korea’s Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA) govern the collection, use and storage of personal data. These frameworks are expected to advance in upcoming years, further regulating how employers conduct background checks.  

Companies need to stay informed on these changes to stay ahead of compliance requirements and avoid legal ramifications. Staying ahead of data laws will also protect employee privacy and safeguard the employer brand and reputation. 

Background checks across APAC

The following table outlines practices and limitations for conducting different types of background checks in select APAC countries:

Table showing practices and limitations for conducting different types of background checks in selected APAC countries

A dual approach for streamlining background checks

The background check is an early step in the employee experience, yet the collection of employee data makes it a potentially sensitive process. At the same time, best practices and rules are continuously evolving in APAC, adding layers of complexity.  

This complexity notably extends beyond background checks to encompass various facets of cross-border HR. Employer of Record (EOR) services, coupled with expert recruitment, offer a strategic approach to overcoming challenges in global talent management. 

A solution like GoGlobal Recruit & Hire provides comprehensive support to fill critical roles and streamline the end-to-end hiring process. Companies gain peace of mind knowing that HR processes, including background checks, are handled effectively and compliantly. This allows them to shift the focus to core business operations while entrusting HR responsibilities to seasoned professionals.  

This dual approach ultimately empowers international companies to thrive, while maintaining strict compliance standards and engaging top-tier talent from around the world.   

Contact us to learn more about how GoGlobal’s one-of-a-kind Recruit & Hire solution can help streamline HR processes in APAC and beyond.