It is a known fact that unemployment figures in South Africa are amongst some of the highest in the world. Securing a job can prove to be one of the most difficult tasks one has to face, as job candidates are jostling with thousands of other candidates for the same position. To add to the difficulty, at times the only thing standing between you and a job can be the seemingly insignificant credit report.
Securing a job or even a promotion can be made so much more difficult because of the status of your credit report. The National Credit Act (NCA) makes provision for employers to check a candidate’s credit status when they are applying for a job that requires trust and honesty and entails the handling of cash or finances, making it especially applicable to people applying for positions in the financial sector or senior positions within any organisation.
“Even though regulation 18 (c) of the act was specifically designed to assess the suitability of candidates in positions where it matters most, we still find that people applying for almost any position are subjected to credit bureau checks as part of their security clearance. Another common practice is that consumers are pressured by potential employers, through recruitment agents, to sign consent for accessing of their credit bureau information as part of the recruitment process even though the position is not in finance,” says Credit Ombud Manie van Schalkwyk.
This practice has seen many qualifying candidates miss out on opportunities of employment. “We need to start educating the Human Resources departments, as well as recruitment agents who are responsible for conducting checks on employees, so that they understand when it is permissible to request a credit report and, once they have done so, are able to assess credit reports correctly when doing employment checks,” he adds.
“In most cases, you find that many Human Resource personnel and recruitment agents are not equipped with enough knowledge in order to understand the different notifications and listings. In addition to this, there seems to be very little knowledge of the legal requirements of the NCA in respect of using credit records for employment purposes,” he continues.
At times you find that some candidates may be turned down for a job because of minor negative listings on their credit reports. Different negative listings bear different degrees of seriousness – it is therefore very important that both Human Resources staff and recruitment agents are trained to assess reports with the required prudence.
“The great benefit that will come from the Removal of Adverse Consumer Credit Information, as per the new Regulations published on 26 February, is that consumers will be in a better position of securing employment, where in the past the adverse information reflecting on their profiles may have cost them the opportunity of being employed,” van Schalkwyk states.
The Credit Ombud advises consumers to check their own credit records and be aware of what potential employers will be able to see once they run a security clearance, which includes a credit report check. “You will then be in a position to volunteer the information yourself to the employer and give reasons as to why there is negative information on your records while you are still being interviewed. Not all negative listings are due to negligence or an inability by a consumer to run their financial affairs, so raising the matter before the employer sees it may place them in a better light,” he continues.
Consumers applying for positions should do the following to ensure that their credit records do not hinder their chances of employment:
- Access your credit record and be aware of what is on your profile – you have the right to challenge any incorrect or inaccurate information you find on your profile.
- Ensure that you re-check your credit record after challenging any incorrect information as sometimes the information can be re-instated after a month or two without your knowledge.
- Build up a good credit record by paying your bills on time as well as paying the correct amount required.
- Check your record with each bureau as they all hold different information and you may find that you are listed at one while your record is clear at another. Consumers are entitled to one free report every year from all registered credit bureaus and an unlimited amount of additional reports may be obtained at a nominal price from the bureaus.
Consumers can contact the office of the Credit Ombud for free assistance on matters relating to problems experienced with any unfair or incorrect listings on a credit bureau as well as any matter pertaining to their credit agreements, such as account disputes or matters with regards to garnishee orders. The office can be contacted on 0861 66 28 37 or visit their website on www.creditombud.org.za. If they cannot assist you, they will refer you to the correct organisation to assist you with your problem.