The use of criminal record checks when hiring staff

Over the past few years, a significant number of Australian businesses have included criminal record checks in their pre-employment screening. Many others have shown interest in using background checks, but still have various questions about the correct way to use this type of check and the benefits for the company.

How to make criminal record checks mandatory

Under Australian law, there’s a limited number of jobs for which background checks are mandatory. Most companies are at liberty to establish their own policies. If you want to avoid discrimination accusations, you need to make police checks mandatory for all new employees and for the existing ones. Signaling people of a certain race or ethnicity for additional police checks can create a lot of problems and lead to financial ruin should your company be accused of using discriminatory practices.

To avoid such unpleasant situations, you should draft a new hiring policy clearly stating that criminal record checks will be used for all new hires, without exceptions.

How to use police checks and stay within the law

You can include background checks in your screening requirements, but you need to stay within the law at all times. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

You need to ask for the written consent of the candidate before ordering a police check on them.

The information in their criminal record check needs to be handled with utmost care, as revealing such sensitive information to third parties is illegal.

According to the law, turning down a job applicant because of their criminal record is illegal if the offences for which they were convicted have no relevance to the position they’re applying for. For example, if you are hiring in the state of Westeran Australia (WA) and ask the prospective employee to present a Western Australian criminal history check certificate, you should check the laws in WA for criminal record check policies and dismissal rules based on police checks in WA to be clear on the rules of the state. A past drunk driving offence can be used to reject a candidate for a driver’s position. However, the same offence becomes irrelevant if that person has applied for a job in maintenance or IT, where they won’t be doing any driving for you. 

Using online background checks saves time and nerves

This whole mandatory background check business is still new and some job applicants might feel rattled by such a requirement. For you as an HR manager or business owner, such a requirement makes perfect sense, but for the candidate it might sound offensive. You don’t want to lose potentially good employees, so you need to make it clear it’s nothing personal, it’s just another box you need to tick and promise that this additional screening won’t bother them in any way.

You risk losing some good professionals if you tell them they’ll need to go to the police station, wasting time and money just to get a piece of paper. However, there will be less objections if you tell them that your company uses the services of an online character agency like Australian National Character Check – ANCC or CV Check and they won’t need to do anything other than assist you in uploading their ID info to the website. The whole process doesn’t take more than five minutes, barely the time to drink a coffee. And you should do exactly that – invite the candidate to your office, offer them a cup of coffee and upload the necessary info while you have a nice chat.

The rest of the process doesn’t concern them anymore. The results will be sent to your email in a couple of days and when you get the police clearance they can come in to sign the contract.