Many people looking for their first job are surprised when they hear they have to undergo a national police check as part of the pre-employment screening process. If you do not know what to expect, here are a few tips about the procedure of employee background check and your rights.
Does an employer have the right to ask for a criminal record?
The issue is a very contentious aspect. Over the past decade, police checks have become routine for recruiting agents hiring new employees. There have been cases where an individual’s job application was turned down because he refused to undergo such a background screening.
However, according to the law, an employee background check should not be invasive and employers should only ask about the candidate’s record if it is relevant to the job. That’s very tricky as employers can come up with any number of reasons why a past conviction could be relevant for the job.
Honesty is the best policy
Australian citizens are not obliged to disclose information about their criminal record if they have reason to believe their application will be automatically turned down if they had a conviction at some point in their life.
Having the right to withhold potentially damaging information is one thing, but availing yourself of such a right is a completely different story.
If a job applicant is asked a specific question about past convictions during the job interview and decides to hide relevant information, the recruiting agent can and will judge the candidate dishonest should a prior conviction appear in a national police check.
Technically, HR managers might not be allowed under the law to turn down a candidate based on a conviction irrelevant to the job, but they might use the fact that the potential employee lied, even by omission, as a ground to turn down the application.
Background checks cannot be carried out without consent
Job-seekers should not be worried that an employer might conduct a background check on them behind their backs. HR agents are required by law to get the candidate’s written consent before ordering a national police check.
Also, recruiting agents are not allowed to use the information gathered for anything other than recruitment purposes, nor are they allowed to share sensitive information with third parties.
How does a background check go?
It’s not as terrifying as it sounds and for most people, it’s a mere formality. In the past, a job applicant asked to provide a national police check had to go to the local police station to demand such a document.
These days, however, things can be done much easier online. There are accredited bodies which can provide a 100% valid national police check within 1 to 3 business days. In Australia, accredited agencies have made it simple to get a police check australia completely online. The online trend is following suit in other advanced countries like New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and here in the U.S.
Some companies take charge of getting such police checks themselves as part of the pre-employment screening processes, but individuals can do this on their own, just as easy.
If you want to speed up the process you can offer to get the national police check yourself, even before the future employer asks for it. However, if the HR department takes charge of this, the candidate will be required to provide the necessary details and ID.