3 min read

A Guide to Employee Background Checks in Singapore

Employee background checks


Michał Kowalewski


February 29, 2024

Last Update

June 30, 2024

Table of Contents

Essential information for a background check in Singapore

Are background checks legal in Singapore?

What types of background checks are illegal in Singapore?

Common background check industries in Singapore

Types of employee background checks in Singapore

Background check mistakes to avoid in Singapore

Step-by-step guide of employee background checks in Singapore

Key takeaways
  1. Background checks are common in Singapore, especially for finance, healthcare, education, and government positions. They help verify information and mitigate risks during hiring
  2. Singapore's Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) regulates background checks. Employers must obtain consent and follow specific guidelines to ensure compliance
  3. Common background checks in Singapore include criminal records, employment history, education verification, and references. Employers should avoid discriminatory practices and data security breaches

Employee background checks should be an integral part of your hiring process in Singapore. Although not mandatory, they are a common practice, especially in finance, healthcare, education, and government positions.

Singapore's thriving economy and strong educational system make it a prime destination for global companies seeking skilled professionals. Over 74% of the population aged 25 and above hold tertiary education, providing a readily available pool of qualified individuals. Additionally, Singapore's high English proficiency facilitates seamless collaboration within diverse teams. Singapore also consistently ranks highly in business ease, offering transparency and efficiency for international operations.

Given such a competitive hiring landscape, conducting background checks becomes important for companies to mitigate risks and make informed hiring decisions. These checks help verify information provided by candidates, ensuring they possess the qualifications and meet the necessary criteria for the role.

In this article, you will discover:

  • How to run an effective and legal employment screening in Singapore 
  • What are the common types of employee checks in Singapore
  • Step-by-step process of a thorough employee screening
  • What mistakes to avoid when performing a background check in Singapore

Essential information for a background check in Singapore

An employee background check is the process of verifying a potential hire’s work history, education, professional qualifications, and any criminal records they might have. It’s particularly beneficial to run before finalizing an employment offer or signing a contract, ensuring the candidate meets the company's standards and requirements. 

In Singapore, the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) governs the collection, use, and disclosure of personal data, while the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) acts as the key regulatory body overseeing compliance with the PDPA.

  • Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA): Establishes the principles and rules that organizations must follow when handling personal data. This includes outlining the conditions for collecting, using, and disclosing an individual's data during a background check.

  • Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC): The PDPC enforces the PDPA and has the power to investigate complaints and impose penalties on organizations that violate the Act. This ensures organizations comply with data protection standards.

Background checks are legal in Singapore, provided that they comply with the regulations set forth in the PDPA. 

Employers must ensure that they have obtained the individual's consent before conducting any background checks. Additionally, the information collected must be relevant to the purpose for which it is collected, and organizations are required to take reasonable measures to ensure the accuracy and security of the data.

Specific regulations also apply to the handling of sensitive personal data, such as financial or medical information. Employers must exercise caution when collecting and processing such sensitive data, ensuring that it is done in compliance with the PDPA.

What types of background checks are illegal in Singapore?

In Singapore, certain types of background checks may be considered illegal or restricted if they infringe upon an individual's privacy or are not conducted in accordance with the PDPA. 

Global employers should stay clear of the following prohibited practices:

  • Non-consensual checks: Conducting credit checks, social media inquiries, or reference checks without explicit consent is strictly prohibited and violates the PDPA
  • Discriminatory practices: Avoid collecting or using data in a way that discriminates against applicants based on protected characteristics
  • Misuse of personal information: Using collected data for any purpose beyond the stated reason for the background check is illegal

Common background check industries in Singapore

Employee background checks are prevalent across various industries in Singapore, particularly in sectors where trust, integrity, and security are paramount. 

  • Finance: Financial institutions in Singapore emphasize financial integrity and adherence to regulations. Background checks help identify individuals with a history of ethical conduct, crucial for handling personal financial information and assets, thereby ensuring customer trust and compliance
  • Healthcare: Background checks in healthcare are crucial for verifying professional credentials and ensuring compliance with healthcare standards. This is vital for providing safe and effective patient care, maintaining patient confidentiality, and upholding the integrity of healthcare services
  • Education: Background checks help screen potential teachers and staff for any history of child abuse or violence, creating a safer learning environment and building trust with parents by demonstrating a commitment to student safety and well-being
  • Government positions: While national security plays a role, thorough background checks for government positions are primarily conducted to ensure individuals entrusted with public power and sensitive matters possess the integrity, suitability, and adherence to regulations required for the role

Types of employee background checks in Singapore

Effective employment screening in Singapore covers essential aspects to evaluate a candidate's abilities. Knowing these areas helps employers tailor screening processes to meet job requirements and legal standards.

Type of Check Common in Singapore Reason
Criminal Record Check Common Employers routinely conduct criminal record checks to ensure the safety of the workplace and minimize potential risks
Employment Verification Common This is a common practice across all industries to verify a candidate's work experience and job responsibilities
Credit History Check Less Common While prevalent in certain industries, such as financial services, credit history checks are less common in other sectors
Academic Qualifications Common Ensures the candidate possesses the required education and skills for the role
Reference Check Common Contacting professional references to validate a candidate's qualifications and character is a standard practice
Social Media Screening Common Social media screening is an emerging trend, with a growing number of employers recognizing its value in gaining additional insights into candidates' professional conduct and reputation

Background check mistakes to avoid in Singapore

Whether you’re hiring employees or contractors in Singapore, there are a few things you shouldn’t do as an employer when it comes to background checks:

  • Collecting excessive information: Avoid collecting unnecessary or excessive personal data that is not relevant to the individual's job application or employment
  • Failing to obtain consent: Always obtain clear and explicit consent from the individual before initiating any background checks
  • Neglecting data security: Ensure that all personal data collected during background checks is securely stored and protected from unauthorized access or disclosure
  • Disregarding PDPA regulations: Adhere to the regulations set forth in the PDPA, ensuring that all background checks are conducted in compliance with the law
  • Discriminatory practices: Avoid using background checks to discriminate against candidates based on factors such as race, religion, or age
  • Neglecting verification processes: Thoroughly verify the authenticity of educational qualifications, employment history, and other relevant information to prevent misrepresentation
  • Overlooking reference checks: Take the time to conduct comprehensive reference checks to gain valuable insights into the candidate's professional capabilities and character

Step-by-step guide of employee background checks in Singapore

Employers looking to hire in Singapore should follow the list of steps below to ensure legal and effective and thorough employee background checks.

  1. Obtain consent: Before initiating a background check, obtain clear and explicit consent from the individual. Clearly communicate the purpose and scope of the check.
  2. Confirm identity: Confirm the candidate's identity through official documents such as the National Registration Identity Card (NRIC).
  3. Verify educational qualifications: Validate the candidate's educational qualifications from reputable institutions.
  4. Verify employment history : Confirm the candidate's previous employment history, including positions held and duration of employment.
  5. Check criminal record: Conduct a criminal record check through the Singapore Police Force to ensure the candidate has no criminal convictions
  6. Check financial background: If relevant to the role, verify the candidate's financial history, ensuring compliance with the PDPA
  7. Check references: Contact provided references to gain insights into the candidate's professional capabilities and character
  8. Verify social media: Conduct a professional review of the candidate's public social media profiles, ensuring that it aligns with the company's values and standards
  9. Document the process: Ensure that all collected personal data is securely stored and protected from unauthorized access or disclosure, as mandated by the PDPA
  10. Inform the candidate: Once the background check is complete, communicate the findings to the candidate and allow them to address any discrepancies or provide context for the information obtained

You can also automate this process using Deel, and get a fast employee background check, with results coming in a matter of minutes.

In the past, we've had difficulty finding a background search option for international contractors that 1) is affordable, 2) is easy to use, & 3) gives us the results we need. Deel's new background search add-on was just what we needed & we will continue to use it going forward. Thanks for the fantastic new tool, Deel!

Mindy Thompson,

Senior Vice President of HR

Run employee background checks with Deel

There’s no need for HR to log into yet another platform or manually chase documents. With screenings in over 200 countries and territories (and counting), for employees and contractors, you can manage background checks for global hires with a single source of truth without leaving the Deel platform.

Are you looking for an easy and safe way to run a background check? It only takes minutes to get results with Deel.

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