The need to conduct criminal history checks on staff or potential candidates depends on a number of different factors.
Some occupations legally require police checks under legislative or regulatory frameworks for registration, licensing or employment purposes. Some of these occupations may include, but are not limited to; lawyers, community care workers, teachers, the police, correctional staff, taxi drivers, financial brokers, building practitioners, bail justices, health practitioners and aged-care workers. These positions require mandatory criminal history checks and in most cases, the individual will not be able to start the role until a recent check result is obtained and can be produced.
On the other hand, more and more employers are choosing to conduct criminal history checks as part of their own risk mitigation strategy, as it is known to be an effective way to guard against potential risks. Some of the benefits of conducting police checks can include:
- Promotion of a safe working environment
- Protection of People, property, assets and company information
- Theft reduction
- Ensuring applicants are honest and trustworthy
- Maintaining business reputation
When determining whether a police check is needed, an employer should consider a risk-based approach based on a thorough understanding of the types of risks each role may be exposed to and the context that the role operates within.
For example, an IT worker may have access to personal or company sensitive information and therefore, there is a potential risk of the mishandling of that information. It is therefore recommended to conduct a criminal history check to ensure that the worker does not have any fraud, theft or embezzlement charges or convictions.
Another example may be a domestic service/ trades worker who may need to enter private homes. Although in these types of roles it is not always mandatory to obtain a police check, an employer may want to think about the potential risks, such as access to personal property or contact with vulnerable people. In this situation, you would want to ensure the worker who undertakes such a role does not have any recent theft, rape or assault charges against their name, as this situation would expose great risks to the residents of the homes themselves and to your business if something did go wrong.
Why do you need a police check policy?
As a part of the company’s wider risk management program, it is best practice for organisations to develop a robust police check policy to prevent discrimination and create a positive work environment that encourages the fair and lawful treatment of its employees.
A written policy can help both potential job candidates and current employees fully understand the company’s objectives in conducting national police checks. This avoids misunderstandings which could potentially disrupt the productivity and welfare of employees. A written policy will also set out the employer’s legal obligations under anti-discrimination laws, assure employees that they will not be dealt with unjustly, harshly, or inconsiderately because they have some sort of criminal history.
The Australian Human Rights Commission recommends that employers consider the inherent requirements of each particular position and what type of crimes are relevant to that position before a job is advertised or an employee is requested to consent to a police check.
What are the steps involved?
By stipulating these considerations in a written policy which employees can refer to throughout the screening process, the employer fosters a sense of certainty and fairness. If the employer considers these factors for the first time while reacting to the disclosure of an individual’s criminal conduct, they may expose themselves to discrimination allegations. Generally, a police check policy should include the following:
a) A statement concerning the employer’s commitment to comply with anti-discrimination spent conviction, and privacy laws; having regard to fairness and natural justice.
b) An outline of both the employer and the employee’s legal rights and obligations on this matter.
c) An outline of the employer’s other legal requirements – such as compliance with industry-specific legislation.
d) The detailed process for assessing the inherent requirements of each position, including when and how police checks can be requested, the process and factors relevant to assessing suitability, and the procedure to address employee grievances.
e) The personnel responsible for conducting/overseeing the various aspects of the risk management process.
By involving staff members in the process of developing the policies and making sure that your policies are accessible and comprehensive, your organisation can create an atmosphere where employees trust you with criminal history information and feel comfortable with your risk management program overall.
Steps on assessing candidates with a criminal record