Can an individual refuse to undergo a police check?


Mitigating employment risks for your organisation may mean that you need to conduct a criminal history check for new and existing employees. Doing so can help you assess any risks they pose for your organisation’s reputation, your clients, and, your workforce. With the information revealed in a police check being personal and sensitive in nature, the employee or job candidate undergoing this screening can exercise certain rights.

First and foremost, the individual has the right to refuse a police check. A criminal history check can only be conducted with the consent of the person against whom a check will be run. If they refuse, by law, you are unable to proceed with the criminal history screening process.

What you can do however, is inform a potential job candidate at the interview stage that employment background checks make up a mandatory part of the recruitment process. This can provide them with the opportunity to withdraw their application if they don’t wish to undergo a criminal history check.

If you conduct periodic police checks on existing staff members, take the opportunity to let this be known when you first hire them. Being upfront from the beginning can essentially be an important piece of information that impacts their decision to work with you. This transparency eliminates any misconceptions about the types of convictions you would consider relevant, and how much weight you are likely to give to the findings of an employment background check.

Can an individual refuse to undergo a police check
A policy for conducting criminal history checks helps you to manage your recruitment process

While it is important for you to respect a person’s right to refuse a police check, you should ensure that you make the criminal history screening process mandatory for all employees wishing to work for you. This calls for a policy for employment background checks, to which you can refer people to from the outset. The presence of this criminal history screening policy makes the process appear more indiscriminate and fair – easing concerns that employees may have about undergoing police checks.

Furthermore, employees also have the right to be heard. It is your duty to inform an individual if you have come across a prior conviction or any pending charges against them. If the information is inaccurate or the record was disclosed by mistake, it will give them the chance to rectify it, or dispute the record.

If there is a very good reason behind this criminal history record, this could be your window to learn about the circumstances surrounding the conviction or charges.

Before you decide to conduct a criminal history check or take any action against an individual based on their record, make sure you are respectful of their rights. Your objective, after all, is to hire the right talent for your organisation. This is only possible when you are both careful and fair, and the channels of communication are open at both ends.

Best Practice Guide
Best Practice Guide

Does an employee in your organisation have a criminal record? Download our Criminal History Screening Best Practice Guide and safeguard your organisation against any employment related risks.