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  • When does a police check expire

    Police checks are an important part of any hiring process because they give employers and decision makers a peek into the criminal history of potential candidates. Based on their findings, employers can then make prudent hiring decisions. But that’s not all.

    Over the past few years, routine background checks have also become prominent. Why? Because police checks only show the criminal history of a person up until the point the check was performed. Should that person get involved in a criminal offence after a police check, that crime would not be reflected in the report. Hence, routine police checks enable employers to keep up-to-date with the criminal history of their employees.

    Police checks are very important to Australian employers - that’s why over 86% of Australian employers carry out one on potential hires. But as we’ve established, a police check is only as good as it accurately reflects the criminal past of an applicant. We’ve seen that the more recent a police check, the better.

    As a job applicant, you’re probably asking yourself: Does a police check expire? Even if it does, when does a police check expire? How can I be certain that my police check is not out-of-date? And many more. In this article, we explore all the subtleties involved.

    Police Checks Do Not Have a Set Expiry Date

    The results on a Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check have no set expiry date. National Police Checks (NPC) are point-in-time’ checks, and they are current, as at the time of issue. A national police check also has no official period of validity. But does this make any sense?

    Sometimes, your details might correlate with those of another person on the criminal database. In this case, the computer "marks" your application for further review to avoid making errors. The computers do not make “guess” comparisons where the data is inconclusive.

    Sure it does! Think about it; a national police check is ‘point-in-time’. To give a vivid illustration, let’s assume you carry out a police check and receive your result in January 2021. Your result will contain Disclosable Court Outcomes (DCO). These include but are not limited to: any charge found proven in court, details of the court that heard the charge, the date, and any penalty or sentence.

    All other things being equal, ten years from now (January 2031), all your criminal history up until January 2021 is NOT going to change. You cannot go back to change the past! In that sense, your police check is still valid, only that it reflects your record up until January 2021. That’s precisely why there’s no point in having an expiry date. Even though your police check might be considered too old in January 2031, the information it contains is still valid up until January 2021.

    Validity Period Is Up to Employers

    Before you get all sneaky, thinking you can turn in that old police check for your new job application, hang on a minute.

    Other than industries where police checks are mandated by law (e.g. Aged Care Police Check), employers and organisations must determine the period for which they will accept a National Police Check. This means an employer can state that your police check should be no older than six months, or one year, or whatever duration they please. Consequently, police checks that have elapsed the stated duration are considered invalid for that specific job requirement.

    The Human Resources Department of organisations have to put a policy regarding criminal background checks and decide how old a document they are willing to accept. If your police check result was issued a couple of weeks ago, chances are you’ve not committed any new crime within such a short time. If you conducted your police check six months or one year ago, HR would have to decide if they’re willing to take the risk.

    Why HR Prefers More Recent Police Checks

    Just to ensure you’re following: Does a police check expire? If you answered, “No”, you’re right on track! Although police checks do not officially expire, employers have the flexibility to stipulate a validity period. And most employers prefer to have access to more recent police checks. That’s why many employers (about 86%) conduct a police check before they bring any applicant on board.

    There’s only one rationale to this: Employers want to minimize the risk of hiring an applicant with a disreputable past.

    Let’s explore a scenario to clarify this point. Imagine an employer uses a police clearance that was conducted six months ago. What this means is that they have no criminal information of the applicant for the past six months. For all we know, the applicant might have been involved in fraud during that period. Or maybe the applicant has committed a sexual offence and is now a registered sex offender. Or the applicant was involved in an extreme act of violence. Unfortunately, the employer has no idea of any of this.

    What happens if the employer proceeds with hiring the applicant? The employer has hired a person that will threaten workplace safety, or sexually harass coworkers, or get involved in workplace theft/fraud. Issues like this become a serious liability to employers, and such an employee can tarnish their company’s image.

    To prevent any of this from happening, employers would rather perform national criminal history checks themselves so that the criminal history of the applicant that they review is up-to-date. As an applicant, know that employers require a formal consent from you before they can carry out any background check on you - that’s the law!

    The Growing Importance of Continuous Police Checks

    As we indicated earlier, many employers are now performing routine police checks on employees. Why? Employees can change during their time on the job. An employee with a clean record at the point of entry might get involved in some criminal activities a few years from now. By implementing a routine check - either yearly or every two years - employers can stay up-to-date with the criminal history of employees.

    Note that employers also have to request a formal consent before they can run routine police checks on you.

    Wrap Up

    So, when does a police check expire? It doesn't! Australian police checks are point-in-time. However, policies vary between employers as to how recently the screening must have been done for it to be considered valid.

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