HR: HR New Survey Shows Polygraph Testing Divides SAÂ’s Employer
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Those in the Â“pro-polygraphÂ” camp point out that lie detector tests are another weapon in a companyÂ’s arsenal if an employee is accused of a serious offence. One respondent from the retail sector indicated that not only would they subject employees to polygraph tests but also to simultaneous Â“lifestyle auditsÂ” in the case of financial mismanagement charges. Others indicated that such tests are a good way of indicating whether employees share the companyÂ’s values and whether they have integrity, especially when handling substantial amounts of money.
The banking sector came down sharply against such tests, with respondents indicating that they rely on stringent recruitment procedures to ensure that only individuals with integrity are hired. Some felt that the tests were Â“not an exact scienceÂ” and Â“irrelevant to a white-collar environmentÂ”, while stating a preference for Â“hard evidenceÂ”.
Â“The old saying, Â‘Prevention is better than cureÂ’, is true,Â” Goodman-Bhyat says. Â“Once the crime Â– usually fraud or theft Â– has been committed, you cannot go back and Â‘undoÂ’ it. A polygraph test may help you uncover the guilty party in a crisis but the possible damage to your corporate reputation and staff morale has already been incurred. It is surely better to hire exemplary employees and minimise the chances of crime than to Â‘lock the stable door after the horse has boltedÂ’, so to speak.Â”
There is currently no legislation covering lie detector tests in South Africa, and both the CCMA and courts of law will only consider polygraph evidence in conjunction with other evidence.
Â“This means that no employee can be compelled to take a polygraph test and that failing one is not an automatic indication of guilt. Employees who find themselves in a situation where they may have to take a test must give their consent in writing,Â” says Goodman-Bhyat.
According to polygraphic best practices, HR managers and employees should abide by certain guidelines, for the protection of all parties.
Â“HR managers have to inform the individual that the examination is voluntary, and that only issues discussed prior to the test will be examined Â– i.e. an examiner investigating a fraud charge canÂ’t spring a Â‘gotchaÂ’ or Â‘surpriseÂ’ question about an unrelated suspected crime on the employee. In addition, employees have the right to an interpreter and the right to have another party present, provided that person does not interfere with the investigationÂ”.
Even with all these parameters in place, polygraph evidence alone is not a basis for finding guilt when the case is put before the CCMA.
Â“An in-depth recruitment process should help weed out untrustworthy individuals who are likely to go against the prevailing corporate culture and thus commit acts such as theft, fraud or others that have a negative impact on the companyÂ’s and their own job performance, such as habitual dishonesty or narcotics abuse.
Â“Ideally, I would prefer to see more sectors screening potential employees more stringently than hoping for the best and having to do damage control and resorting to measures such as lie detector tests in a crisis,Â” notes Goodman-Bhyat.
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