How do Companies Verify a Police Check?
Police Checks are an integral part of the onboarding process for many organisations in Australia. Before taking on a new recruit, it is common practice to assess their criminal background to gauge the candidate’s suitability for the role.
This procedure helps to keep workplaces safe and empowers companies to make the best hiring decisions.
Any Police Check provided by a licensed body draws on reliable police data from all over Australia. There is also a sophisticated verification system in place that allows companies to confirm the authenticity of the check.
Below, you’ll find everything you need to know about why companies use Police Checks and how they verify them.
What is a Police Check?
A Police Check, or National Police Check, is a document containing information about a person’s criminal history. It is often required by organisations as part of the screening process for employment, citizenship, immigration, licensing and other purposes.
Police Checks display information gathered from the National Police Checking Service’s database. This database collates criminal records from all Australian states and territories.
When a Police Check application is made, the applicant’s identity is checked against this database. If they have criminal records on file, these may be disclosed on the Police Check, though this depends on the nature of the offences and the purpose of the check.
What is Shown on an Employment Police Check?
Any Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check displays one of two possible results:
- Disclosable Court Outcomes (DCOs)
- No Disclosable Court Outcomes (NDCOs)
A DCO result means that the person has criminal records that have been deemed relevant to the role that they are applying to. An NDCO result means the person either has a clean criminal history or no records considered releasable in the context of the check.
If you are using your Police Check for employment purposes, potential DCOs will be related to the role that you are applying to. For example, if you were applying to a job that required regular driving, any traffic offences on your file would be released as these are relevant to the role.
In addition, certain offences will always appear as DCOs regardless of the purpose of the check. These include:
- Any conviction,
- Any charge,
- Court appearances,
- Pending charges,
- Court orders,
- Findings of guilt with no conviction.
In some cases, DCOs may become eligible for expungement from your Criminal Record Check as part of the spent convictions scheme. Once certain conditions have been fulfilled by the offender, they may no longer be legally obliged to disclose the offence in their check.
Typically, this is when 10 years have passed since the conviction and the person has not reoffended in the intervening period. Certain serious crimes are not eligible for the spent convictions scheme. Specific eligibility also varies between Australian states and territories.
Why do Companies Require a Police Check?
Pre-employment Police Checks are common in most industries and act as a protective measure for organisations. In many cases, they may be a required part of the screening process. This should be clearly stated in the job advertisement.
There are several reasons why companies request a Criminal History Check from applicants. The two main ones can be found below.
By reviewing the criminal backgrounds of candidates, organisations can identify the potential risks that come with making a new hire. This allows them to make informed recruitment decisions that maintain workplace security and protect employees and clients.
While it is against the law for employers to discriminate between applicants based on criminal history, this may be taken into account if the offences are relevant to the role. For example, someone with a history of fraud is unlikely to be admitted to a finance role.
Reducing risk is also essential in roles involving vulnerable groups, such as care and education roles. Police Checks, therefore, help companies to rule out candidates that are potentially dangerous to their interests.
Prevent identity fraud
Another advantage of the Criminal Background Check is that it helps to verify the person’s identity. As such, pre-employment Police Checks act as another line of defence for companies against applicant identity fraud.
It’s not uncommon for job seekers to lie on their resume or even during an interview. However, Police Checks can verify that a person really is who they say they are. This is because they use government information that is linked to each person’s identity from birth.
This allows employers to sound out fraudsters while also protecting those whose identity has been stolen.
How do Companies Verify a Police Check?
Companies can be confident that the results of the Police Check are valid if the check has been carried out by a provider with accreditation from the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC).
The ACIC is responsible for the handling of Australia’s National Police Checking Service. Essentially, this is a database that gathers criminal data from all states and territories in Australia.
When a request for a Police Check is made, either through a police body or ACIC-accredited provider, the handler is given access to this database. The applicant’s identity is then vetted to see if there are any matches and the check is returned accordingly.
There is also a regular but random review process that takes place to ensure that Police Checks are processed correctly.
Once the check has been returned, a unique verification number is enclosed on the corresponding National Police Check. This code can be used by companies to authenticate the results.
The name and location of the code vary depending on the provider. Usually, it is referred to as a “Check ID” or “Verification Number” and can be found on the top left or right corners of the document.
This information can then be inserted into the verification page on the website of the relevant provider to confirm the authenticity of the Police Check.
Where Can I Get a Police Check for Employment Purposes?
If you are applying to a new role and have been asked to undertake a National Police Check by the employer, you have two options to choose from.
Firstly, you can request a Police Check from an Australian police authority. Alternatively, you can submit your application through a third-party accredited provider such as Crime Check Australia.
The application process for both options is explained below.
Australian police authority
Police Checks are obtainable from all state police bodies as well as the Australian Federal Police. To apply through this method, visit your local police station and request a Police Check.
You will be asked to fill out a paper-based application. Once this is sent off, it can take several weeks to be returned. Delays often occur when there are inconsistencies in the paperwork.
For certain purposes, such as citizenship and immigration, you are required to provide an Australian Federal Police Check; certificates from third-party providers are not accepted.
You can also obtain a Police Check online from select third-party providers. Any organisation with ACIC accreditation is licensed to carry out checks with the same validity status as those obtained from police authorities.
ACIC-accredited providers usually offer an online application process that can be completed within 15 minutes. Once the application is submitted, the ACIC’s national database is checked and the Police Check is returned to the applicant via email, usually within a matter of hours.
Using a third-party provider is the easier option for many people. This is because it can be completed remotely and in less time. Police Checks from ACIC-accredited bodies are always valid for employment purposes.
It should be noted that in some cases, the employer will solicit the Police Check on your behalf. This is a common occurrence when the employer has a particular preference for the provider of the check.
Under these circumstances, you will need to provide the relevant information and documentation to the employer as well as your informed consent to carry out the Police Check.
Because some employers are selective with National Police Clearance, you are always urged to speak with your employer first before submitting a check of your own accord.
What Types of Companies Require a Police Check?
While most companies require applicants to provide Police Clearance prior to employment, Australian law prohibits them from discriminating against candidates based on their criminal record.
However, companies can consider Police Check results if the enclosed offences are relevant to the role that is being advertised. For example, a conviction for theft would likely be taken into consideration when assessing a candidate’s suitability for a role in retail.
In addition, certain positions always require a Police Check from prospective applicants. This is because the sensitivity of the role necessitates a more stringent review of employees’ criminal histories. In many cases, only candidates with a clean record will be considered.
These roles include:
- Government positions,
- Public vehicle drivers,
- Legal roles,
- Prison workers,
- Jobs involving vulnerable groups.
If applicants are required to consent to a National Criminal History Check as part of the screening process, it is the employer’s responsibility to make this clear in the job advertisement.
Will Criminal Records Prevent Me From Getting a Job?
Certain jobs may require applicants to hold a clean criminal record. These include roles involving children and senior government positions.
However, for other jobs, a criminal record will not necessarily prevent you from gaining employment. Legally, employers must not discriminate against an applicant based on their criminal history.
Whether a criminal record will affect your eligibility for a role ultimately depends on several contextual factors, including the nature of the offence, its relevance to the role, the applicant’s behaviour since the offence and, most importantly, the employer’s disposition.
If you are concerned about the results of your Australian Police Check, being open with the employer and explaining the circumstances of an offence can boost your chances of it being overlooked.
How Long are Employment Police Checks Valid?
Australian law does not stipulate a set expiry date for Police Checks. Instead, this is left in the hands of the organisation requesting them.
Police Checks are considered a ‘point in time’ check that is only representative of a person at the time of issue. As time goes on, they become less useful to organisations.
In most cases, companies will request a new Police Check if the applicant does not have one from the previous three months. However, this can vary.
Some organisations may also require employees to consent to regular Police Checks in order to update their records. This will always be disclosed in the employment contract.
All Police Checks contain a unique verification code that can be used by companies to authenticate the results of the check. This is typically located at the top of the National Police Check and can be used on the verification page of the relevant provider’s website to check authenticity.
It is also key that Police Checks are obtained from official police authorities or ACIC-accredited providers. This ensures that the information provided has been sourced from the Government’s verified National Police Checking Service.