In Australia, various jobs require candidates to undergo and pass a national police check before a prospective employer can advance the hiring process.
For certain organisations and industries, it is vital to ensure that risks to public health and community safety are appropriately mitigated and that the likelihood of misconduct, mishaps, damages or injuries caused by employees is minimised by thorough, more extensive background assessments.
This article will look at the jobs police checks are commonly used for and the concern about potential hiring bias and discrimination based on information they may uncover.
Jobs that require a police check
As you might expect, jobs in community services and development, healthcare, medical fields, government and defence almost certainly require candidates to complete a police check before commencing employment.
Other employment sectors that may require a national police check are those within banking and finance as well as childcare and education.
In roles where employees are working closely with patients, children or have access to high levels of security clearance, should an employer not complete its due diligence to investigate criminal history prior to hiring and subsequent misconduct does occur, they can be held liable for that employee’s actions and the resulting fall out.
Different types of police checks in Australia
A National Police Check (NPC) is provided by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) through accredited external agencies and can only be undertaken with the consent of the person who is having the check done.
An NPC involves comparing an individual's details (such as name and date of birth) against a central index of names by using an algorithm that determines if their particulars match any who have police history information.
The name will then be vetted by police personnel to determine what information may be lawfully disclosed.
Slightly different and less commonly run, an Australian Federal Police Check can only provide National Police Checks for certain reasons.
What is disclosed in a police check?
A police check either reports that no criminal records are held by the applicant or it will contain information from police agencies that is able to be legally disclosed. For example, that information may include:
Court convictions, including any penalty or sentence
Findings of guilt with no conviction
Good behaviour bonds or other court orders
Matters awaiting court hearing
From the perspective of the employer, it is considered best practice to double check any information provided by a police check as there can be cases of mistaken identity or a conviction listed that should not have been recorded.
What are the candidates rights?
There is no onus on a prospective employee to volunteer anything about his or her prior record, even if that information is likely to impact an employer’s willingness to hire them.
Furthermore, unless there is a requirement under legislation to disclose a criminal record (for instance, in situations where you will be working with children) there is no absolute obligation for an applicant to answer questions pertaining to that history, even when asked.
However, if a reasonable question is asked about criminal history and it is relevant to the specific job advertised, an employer may be in their right to deny the hiring of that candidate should they fail or refuse to answer.
In saying this, employers may choose to explain to applicants prior to the interview process why certain convictions are relevant to that job and that the absence of full and frank disclosure might be seen to be dishonest in nature.
This approach can also help to minimise the prospect of disagreements which could lead to claims of discrimination down the track.
How do you obtain a police check?
Obtaining a national police check is easily done through a variety of online portals that are ACIC accredited. Accredited ACIC agencies have stringent security standards and protocols, meaning any information provided by applicants should be safer than most other websites.
To be better prepared, if you know the jobs you will be applying for fall into industry categories that have a higher likelihood of requiring a police check it might be worth organising and completing one beforehand.
ACIC agencies accredited to provide national police checks include:
Costs of a police check
The fees for a National Police Check and related services are $42.00 for each application submitted by a government department or an individual.
Applicants are strongly encouraged to allow a minimum of 10 working days from the date that the application is received for the process to be completed.
This suggested timeline may be further delayed if information is required from interstate jurisdictions.
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