When should you undertake employee background checks?

For an employer to have full confidence when hiring a new employee, background checks can prove to be invaluable.

Background checks can include investigations into a person’s criminal background, financial history, schooling and degrees, and prior employment engagements. Each of these areas can provide an employer with valuable information.

Any information garnered by an employer in the course of doing a pre-employment background check of a potential employee is protected by the Privacy Act 1988. As such, it is important that all employers remember that the information they gather cannot be accessed without a written release from the employee or potential employee, and that all information obtained is protected by the individual’s right to privacy.

It is crucial for an employer to know that any information that is used from a report that causes the employer to refuse a person employment must be disclosed to the prospective employee and a copy of the report offered to the person investigated. The employee always has the right to know the following:

  1. Why the personal information is being requested.
  2. Who will have access to the information.
  3. How the information will be used.
  4. That they have the right to be asked for their personal information.
  5. That they have the right to correct any misinformation.
  6. That they have the right to make a complaint against any party who mishandles their information.

There are a few different types of background checks an employer can obtain. Each check serves a different purpose for protecting different aspects of an employer’s business.

Police Check – This type of background check involves fingerprinting, filling out the appropriate paperwork, and yields a review of the potential employee’s criminal record. Any person, aged 14 or older, can request to have this check performed for the purpose of gaining employment.

Working with Children Checks – This type of background check is different from a criminal background check and must be done separately. This investigative check is defined for professions quantified in the Child Protection Act of 2012.

In addition to formal background checks, there are several steps an employer can take to ensure the integrity of potential employees. Some of these steps include verifying the information received by an employee by using the following options.

Qualifications Check – The employer should take the time to follow up on any educational degrees claimed on the potential employee’s curriculum vitae. In addition, the employer should verify any certifications or licenses claimed with the agency identified as having conferred the same.

Credit History – The employer can request permission to run a credit check on the employee. This may be particularly necessary if the employee will be responsible for financial issues of the organisation.

References – While an employer cannot be certain that references are being truthful, it is always best to take the time to contact the listed professional references of any prospective employee.

Lastly, it is extremely important that the employer take the proper amount of time to get to know the prospective employee through pre-screening candidates and undertaking first and second interviews.

Rolf Howard, Managing Partner, Owen Hodge Lawyers

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