How to Conduct Background Checks in Singapore

Posted: January 18, 2021

There are many reasons for companies conducting business in Singapore to perform background checks, including that many job applications have discrepancies in candidates’ work history, including employment history and educational background. While this may seem daunting, it is a reminder that it is imperative for companies to complete thorough background checks on potential job candidates. In particular, the financial industry must ensure that applicants they employ or appoint to conduct regulated activities are fit and proper according to the guidelines of the MAS (Monetary Authority of Singapore).

Here are a couple considerations to take into account while conducting background checks in Singapore:

  • In Singapore, aside from what is regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the amount of information provided by previous employers depends on company policy. It is common for previous employers to not disclose all of the requested information.
  • Consent is not required when an organization collects personal data that is publicly available in Singapore. However, it is a best practice to obtain consent in writing or another manner, so it is accessible for future reference. Verbal consent may be given but may be difficult to provide proof it is needed in the future.
  • Driving history checks are not publicly available in Singapore.

Data Privacy Laws in Singapore

It is necessary to understand how data privacy laws in Singapore relate to background check. The most important law is Singapore’s Personal Data Protection Act 2012, No. 26 of 2012 (PDPA), which establishes limits on the collection and processing of personal information. It also sets forth nine basic principles that must be complied with:

  1. Consent: Organizations should not collect, use or disclose personal data unless informed consent has been provided (meaning, the individual understands the purpose for which his/her personal data will be collected, used or disclosed).
  2. Purpose Limitation: Organizations may only collect, use and disclose personal data for purposes that a reasonable person would consider appropriate under the circumstances and where the individual has been informed (as needed) per the Notification Obligation.
  3. Notification: Organizations must inform individuals about the purpose for which personal data will be collected, used and/or disclosed.
  4. Access and Correction: Individuals have the right to access and correct personal data held by organizations.
  5. Accuracy: Organizations must make a reasonable effort to ensure personal data is accurate and complete if the personal data forms the basis for a decision that impacts the individual or is likely to be disclosed to another organization.
  6. Protection: Organizations must have reasonable security arrangements in place to prevent unauthorized access, collection, use, disclosure, copying, modification, disposal, etc. of personal data.
  7. Retention Limitation: Personal data may only be retained as long as necessary for legal and business purposes; however, there is no fixed time period under the PDPA as it pertains to personal data retention.
  8. Transfer Limitation: Personal data may not be transferred outside of Singapore unless a condition – such as the consent of the individual or binding corporate rules – is met.
  9. Openness: Organizations must develop and implement policies and practices (and make that information available) that meet the requirements under the PDPA. This includes designating at least one individual who is responsible for PDPA compliance within the organization.

There are also several guidelines published by the Personal Data Protection Commissioner (PDPC) to help organizations understand the PDPA’s requirements, although they are not legally binding.

Educational Verification in Singapore

Given the high level of fraud that occurs with applicants falsifying their work and educational history in Singapore, it is imperative for companies to conduct thorough educational and employment verifications on potential hires. Educational verifications are one of the most common background checks performed in Singapore. However, there is no specific legislation in Singapore for third parties to conduct Educational Verification for employment screening purposes.

The first step to conducting an Educational Verification in Singapore is to authenticate the awarding institution through the SGP Ministry of Education or Council for Private Education. After the institution is authenticated, the following information will be verified: dates attendance, the qualification awarded, and the graduation date is conducted by telephone, fax, or email directly through the awarding institution. As there are a number of Singapore institutions that are affiliated with overseas programs, verifications in these cases may be conducted through either the local or overseas institution.

Employment Verification in Singapore

When verifying employment history in Singapore, the candidate’s factual employment history is verified through the Human Resource or Payroll department of the subject’s former employer. Employment History Verifications usually provide the name and location of employer, dates of employment, last position held, reason for leaving, last salary, name of direct/line manager, eligibility for rehire. Additionally, previous employers will be asked if a candidate was dismissed or asked to resign, and to ask if the candidate has any material adverse records.

For both employment and education verifications, the name and designation of the person providing the verification will be captured. Employment verifications do not extend beyond a seven-year time frame in the absent a legal or regulatory requirement to obtain that information.

Singapore Criminal Record Searches

The official criminal record search in Singapore is the “Certificate of Clearance” through the Singapore Police Force. However, the Singapore Police Force has provided guidance that under the Registration of Criminal Act, Chapter 268, the Police must ensure that access to these records is properly controlled. They do not accede to request by private organizations or individuals to screen a person for criminal records either by themselves or through company or organizations. Under the Registration of Criminals (Amendment) Bill 2005, certain offenses automatically become “spent” after a period of 5 years provided no further offenses occur during that period (other parameters may also apply).

Info Cubic offers an Illicit Activity Database search in lieu of a traditional criminal search since it is not available in Singapore with a proprietary database that will pull information from publicly available resources. While this search will provide insight into an individual’s past, it should not be considered a true, comprehensive criminal history review.

Here are a few other products available in Singapore:

  • Passport Check – This search confirms the individual’s identity by verifying the authenticity of a machine-readable passport.
  • Professional License Verification – This search verifies the individual’s claimed license. Most often, the Professional License Verification simply provides the current status of the license claimed; however, other details such as license number, date of issuance, expiration and disciplinary action will be provided when available.
  • Singapore Civil Records Search – The nationwide search is performed at the nationwide level. Report may include case type, file date, case number, name of court where case was filed, plaintiff, defendant and disposition if a case can be located.
  • Singapore Bankruptcy Records Search – This search is important in Singapore since there are many instances of financial-related misrepresentations. Bankruptcy records searches are conducted through the Singapore Online Insolvency Portal. Report may include file date, case number, name of court where case was filed and case status if a bankruptcy case can be located. Requirements: Name, Date of Birth

For more information on conducting Singapore background checks, or for information on international background checks in general, please feel free to reach out to the Info Cubic team at (877) 360-4636.

It is important to note that the preceding is offered as general educational information and is not intended to constitute legal advice. Given the intricacies of the pertinent laws and regulations, consultation with qualified legal counsel is recommended.