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  • Home Resources & Technical Articles Pre-Employment Screening Topics Pre-Employment Screening (General) Should employers request information about a person's criminal record before a police check?

    Should employers request information about a person's criminal record before a police check?

    We all understand how vital a Police Check (Background Check) is to recruiting agencies and other organisations. The Checks inform the organisation about the candidate's criminal records or any history that will hinder them from holding the role or task they seek.

    However, employers must be careful when requesting the Police Check certificate from their candidate. These Checks are sensitive and private documents of the candidate and must be treated with the utmost security. Mishandling these documents in any form can lead to legal or punitive actions against the organisation. These breaches are well explained in various sections of the Privacy laws.

    Discrimination and dealing with sensitive records in Australia

    Generally, the relevant laws in Australia prohibit organisations from entirely investing or concerning themselves with documents that are not related to the role. It can even come as discrimination against an organisation if they directly request a Criminal record before the official Police Check records.

    Criminal records are sensitive information, and any unofficial/illicit handling of these records can land your organisation in trouble with the law. It is a best practice only to request a Police Check when it is legitimate to do it under your internal organisation policies.

    Why requesting the Criminal record before Police Check can be discrimination?

    Discrimination occurs in various forms, no less in corporate organisations and firms. In collaboration with the States and Territories, the Australian government continues to work tirelessly to ensure that these irregularities are broken down.

    It is common for some organisations to discriminate against a candidate because of their criminal records, even when the law explicitly prohibits it. However, some of these organisations are unaware of some of these laws defining certain acts as discrimination.

    • Such a process lacks transparency.

    Any organisation that considers certain records to hinder the role they hire for should state it in the preliminary advert. It is dishonest and illegitimate for an organisation only to start requesting criminal records if such a requirement was not earlier stated.


    • The candidate is never aware of the standard of assessment

    If an organisation requests for specific records before/without a Police Check, the candidate does not know the metric by which they will be judged. It can expose the organisation to complaints of discrimination or unfair treatment of staff and employees.

    It is always essential that the organisation states its metrics and assessment methods before requesting the Police Check.


    • The Employer is uninformed of circumstances around the offences

    While a Police Check will provide other relevant information regarding the records, directly requesting criminal records does not. Most times, the other issues regarding the convictions are just as important as the criminal record.

    For example, the Police Check reveals other information, including;


    These factors can influence how the organisation considers the offence and the effect on their roles.

    • organisations use it as a means to disqualify certain groups

    Some employers can be notorious for using these private records they collect from the candidate to disqualify them from the role without considering other factors. While it can be understandable and within the law, it is wrong to discriminate for employers to disqualify "unsuitable" persons.

    The policies encourage an organisation only to use the Police Check/record to assess candidates when they are shortlisted. And if it is necessary for the role, they must broadcast it in the original job advert.

    Problems with requesting Criminal records before the Police Check

    Organisations should be wary of demanding other records outside the Police Check as there are many associated risks. The common problem with requesting informal criminal record reports/documents is the aspect of discrimination.

    Of course, it is challenging for an organisation to defend why they request private Criminal records before the more "standard" Police Check certificate. And this can count against your organisation in serious court matters regarding discrimination and other private records discrepancies.

    • Mishandling of Private records

    When organisations request criminal records outside the Police Check, there is always the problem of mishandling. Compared to standard Police Checks, informal requests for criminal records are not usually transmitted through secure chains or areas.


    • Improper assessment

    An organisation may lose the opportunity to recruit a better-suited candidate for the role because of hasty decisions made with the informal criminal records. While a Police Check is more balanced, the criminal record is a targeted means of requesting the candidate's record.

    Requesting for Criminal records in Job advertisements

    We understand that specific roles are inherently "unsuitable" to people with certain records. The organisation must state this (with reasons) in the job advert.

    For example, the Employer can include questions about;

    • ✔ How long ago the candidate was convicted of the offence and if they had any recent convictions for the same crime.
    • ✔ If the conviction was given to them as a juvenile, five years had elapsed since they received it.
    • ✔ If the conviction is older than ten years old, and
    • ✔ where the imprisonment was greater than 30 months old (they should provide specific details)

    Wrapping Up

    While it is not inherently illegal to request some sort of criminal records, all actions must;

    • ✔ Follow safe and correct legal procedures,
    • ✔ Must not be malignant to the candidate/employee,
    • ✔ Should not go against policies of established agencies.

    Source

    Australian Human Rights Commission (Human Rights: Discrimination in employment on the basis of criminal record) - https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/human-rights-record-recruitment-chapter-5

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