The process of conducting background checks on potential – and, in some cases, existing – employees is increasing at a brisk rate. As incidents of employee fraud, misconduct and negligent hiring litigation continue to rise, more and more businesses see background checks as a fundamental HR and risk management process.
Police checks are not something you just tick off – they have implications. There are a lot of factors you need to consider when introducing police checks into your workplace. Inevitably, legal issues (such as discrimination) and questions around privacy violations will increase so it is vital that you have coherent and well-detailed policies and procedures in place as part of your police-checking processes.
What should you be thinking about?
When it comes to the range of offences that police checks might disclose, ensure you have clear guidelines about what you are – and are not – willing to accept. You are putting your brand in the hands of your employees and you are well within your rights to not accept certain things.
If you decide that a criminal record is not necessarily an automatic red flag, you might find it helpful to weigh up the following variables:
- What was the offence?
- Does it relate to the job the candidate applied for?
- Does it speak to the individual’s character?
- How long ago was the offence committed?
- Was the offence a stupid folly of youth or was it a more serious offence that involved a custodial sentence?
These are all extremely important distinctions that your policy should take into account and even the most comprehensive police check policy will come up against anomalies.
Who will be empowered to make the final decision if a police check discloses an offence? Will this be the hiring manager? HR staff? Senior management? You need to consider the referral line and the person who will be given responsibility to make the final judgement call on employing someone or breaking a ‘tie’ between equally desirable applicants.
Do you just check your employees on initial recruitment? Or do you think there are benefits to re-checking staff across the period of their employment?
Some organisations re-check annually or once every three years but you must carefully consider the impact that introducing such a policy might have on the workplace. If there have been instances of fraud or misconduct in your workplace, ongoing police checks are definitely justified. Without legitimate grounds, however, staff will interpret ongoing checks as suspicion on the behalf of management, which means such a policy should be introduced with sensitivity through positive communication.
Make sure you have a clear process for dealing with disputes. For instance, what happens if an employee refuses to get rechecked? What happens if they don’t agree with your decision based on that check?
Considering the serious implications of mishandling disputes – or having a poor dispute resolution process – do not be afraid to seek input from your organisation’s legal team to ensure your police check policy holds up to discrimination claims, and is fair and reasonable.
It could be worthwhile implementing a process for the reporting of police incidents if your workplace performs annual police checks.
Let’s say ‘Ben’ has been employed with your organisation for six months and everything is going really well. Ben has one too many drinks at the footy on the weekend and is caught drink-driving. It doesn’t affect his ability to do his job (he doesn’t need a driver’s licence for that) but this offence is going to appear in his next police check. Having a reporting process means that, when Ben’s DUI comes up, it won’t be a surprise to you – his employers – or an embarrassment to Ben.
You might need such reporting procedures to be incorporated into your employee contract, as well as your police check process.
Will you do the police checks yourself or are you going to outsource the task to a provider?
In either situation, make sure you understand the quality and veracity of the information you’re getting from the provider: What do their certificates look like? Can they be verified? Can they be tampered with? Do they have a currency period (for example, do they expire after a set time, like three months)?
The same applies if you want employees or potential employees to get the police check completed off their own bat. You’re divesting yourself of the responsibility of obtaining the check but you still need to be satisfied with the quality of the organisation providing the police check.
Do you have processes in place to verify those documents? It’s crucial you make sure the information in the report discloses the police information verbatim. Do not accept reworded or reinterpreted information – it needs to be disclosed exactly as the police department states in their own words.
‘No disclosable court outcomes’ – that’s what you will read if there is no police record, and that’s what you need to look for if you want to employ someone who is offence-free.