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Background screening is a gig that needs fixing

Zomato rejects about 25% applications due to reasons like unavailability of proper documents, failure in background-check clearance and lack of right intent on part of the candidate to work as a delivery partner, the company said.

Nov 11, 2019, 08.44 AM IST
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At Uber, for any serious allegations, it suspends the driver-partner’s access to the app till the matter is investigated. While these processes are constantly evolving, for many employers it is just about ticking the check box.
BENGALURU: The need for credible background checks of gig economy workers is becoming increasingly important with a rising number of these temporary workers finding themselves on the wrong side of the law, say top executives of verification and staffing companies.

For many consumer internet startups, these workers like delivery staff or cab drivers are the face and the way they behave has a direct impact on their public image, making it imperative for them to invest in the verification process. While this offers a big business opportunity, companies providing verification services say they also face challenges in executing full background checks due to lack of data and other issues.

While background verification is mandatory, these executives told ET that the need of the hour was also to conduct psychometric tests, which would give employers an idea about how these workers could act in future.

There have been many complaints of delivery staff misbehaving with customers and cab drivers illtreating passengers. There have also been instances of violent crimes, such as rape and murder.

Issues around supplyside restrictions, heightened demand, lack of organised data sources and in some cases lack of intent among employers are often the major roadblocks for a thorough background check.

“Some customers are stringent about the process but quite a few are not, and we need to constantly advise them on how to make the process better,” said Pravin Agarwala, the chief executive of BetterPlace, a platform that connects blue-collar workers and companies. It works with companies like Ola, Dunzo and Flipkart.

Even if companies are serious, there are external factors which hinder a thorough background check.

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“Data accuracy is a major challenge, education data or police verification are not entirely reliable, sometimes data is not made available in time,” said Ajit Isaac, the managing director of business services company Quess Corp. “There are inherent delays in the system, making it impossible to retrieve data on time. It is a combination of all these factors which compound these problems.” Companies such as Flipkart, Amazon, Zomato and Swiggy annually spend $1.5-2 million each on the verification process, according to market experts. While for large ecommerce companies the verification processes might be stringent, the small ones sometimes cut corners, they said.

“A total of 20,000 employees (drivers) from a ride-hailing company were verified. Out of this, 15% were red-flagged based on previous criminal cases. These cases include invalid licence, forged documents, invalid address,” said Varun Mirchandani, a cofounder of Delhi-based background verification company Hello-Verify.

While candidates might be redflagged by verification agencies, the final decision to hire them rests with the company.

Zomato rejects about 25% applications due to reasons like unavailability of proper documents, failure in background-check clearance and lack of right intent on part of the candidate to work as a delivery partner, the company said.

At Uber, for any serious allegations, it suspends the driver-partner’s access to the app till the matter is investigated. While these processes are constantly evolving, for many employers it is just about ticking the check box.


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