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It would be interesting to see whether business insurance companies would agree to polygraph testing in the future or not.

A recent survey conducted by South Africa’s top companies show that the issue of polygraph or lie detector testing is splitting the country’s top employers. While the banking sector generally and firmly rejected the legitimacy of polygraph tests, employees within the insurance, FMCG and retail industries could soon find themselves wired up and their bodily responses carefully monitored for dishonesty.

There is at present no legislation covering polygraph testing which could see some employees on the back foot in a crisis.

Those that are all for polygraph testing point out that lie detector tests are another weapon in a company’s armoury if an employee is accused of a serious misdemeanor.

One respondent from the retail sector indicated that not only would they subject their staff to polygraph testing but will also run lifestyle audits which means that these will be done in the instances of financial mismanagement charges.

The banking sector criticised this and are against these tests, with respondents indicating that they rely on strict recruitment processes to vouchsafe that only individuals with integrity are hired. Many feel that these tests are not an exact science and therefore do not have a place in a white-collar environment.

Prevention is always first prize – once a misdemeanor has been committed you cannot undo the damage. A polygraph might assist in uncovering the guilty person responsible for a crime, but irreversible damage has already been done.

There is no legislation covering lie detector tests in SA and the CCMA and courts will only look at polygraph testing in conjunction with other testing. No employee can be forced to take a polygraph test. If an employee agrees to have a test done permission has to be given in writing.

Ideally it is preferable for screening to take place BEFORE being employed rather than correcting the problem after it has taken place. 

Business insurance companies have never supported polygraph testing, but the future will soon tell whether this will become common practice or not.

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