How Often Should Organisations Run Police Checks on Their Employees?
To ensure an employee is suitable for the job role they’re in, employers in Australian organisations may request to see an up-to-date national police check. This request may come just once during the application process or at regular intervals throughout a person’s employment.
If you’re an employer, you might find yourself wondering how often you need to run police checks on your employees. The answer isn’t all that straightforward, depending as it does on factors that include what the organisation does and the particular roles of the people within it. This guide has all the answers you need to help you get it right.
1. How Often Should Organisations Run Police Checks on Their Employees?
There is no one simple answer to this question. In reality, it all depends on context. While, in some companies, it could be considered appropriate to ask employees to provide police checks annually, in others, a police check might not be necessary at all.
Either way, the frequency at which employees will be expected to apply for a criminal background check will be at the discretion of their employer.
The organisations that are most likely to require regular police checks tend to be those in which police checks are mandatory for employees at the point of application. This is usually for licencing or similar purposes and is most common in industries where workers have to deal directly with money, sensitive data, or vulnerable people.
In instances where ongoing disclosure of criminal history is considered necessary, employers generally use the information included in a police check to determine if a person is still right for their role. If, for example, an employee who works in financial services picks up a conviction for fraud, they may then be considered a risk to their company.
So, in short, the answer is that it’s up to you. Taking the appropriate risk factors into account, it is down to an employer to determine when or if they need to see evidence of police clearance from their employees.
2. In What Industries Might an Organisation Be Required to Conduct Regular Police Checks?
As mentioned above, organisations that deal with vulnerable people, valuable assets, or sensitive data generally need to keep track of employees’ criminal histories. These include, but are not limited to, organisations in the following industries:
- Community services and development.
Employees whose criminal backgrounds are not checked regularly could commit an offence during their time with your organisation. To ensure the business and its stakeholders remain as safe as possible, it is recommended that you put a policy in place and inform workers that police checks will be requested regularly.
What Job Roles Do Not Require Police Checks?
Police checks in South Australia, Australian Capital Territory, and everywhere else across the country are rarely required for certain job roles. For example, delivery drivers and labourers very often will not need to disclose their criminal history either during the application process or at any point throughout their employment.
Still, that’s not to say that all such positions are accessible without a police check. Once again, it is up to each employer to determine whether or not a police check is appropriate. Not to mention the fact that, if an employee gets promoted or their job role changes, it might then be necessary to request a police check from them for the first time.
3. Why Do Organisations Need to Conduct Police Checks on Their Employees?
Organisations that request regular criminal record checks from their employees generally do so because they have a duty of care. This duty of care could be related to the safety of other employees, patients, or customers, or it could have to do with the valuable assets and data the organisation itself deals with.
These sorts of companies must manage risk. At the end of the day, as an employer, the actions of a worker will reflect poorly on you and your organisation as a whole.
4. Do Police Checks Mitigate Employment Risks?
By their very nature, police checks do mitigate risk. They offer a crucial insight into employees’ criminal histories, helping employers to spot people who may no longer be right for the role they’re in. Plus, with a police checking policy in place, employees are more likely to understand that they have to abide by certain standards both in and out of work.
However, there are limitations to the effectiveness of police checks in Australia. While they do play a part in helping organisations manage risk, they cannot be considered definitive. For one thing, police checks cannot, of course, predict who might be a future offender. They also will not flag people who have committed crimes in the past without being caught or charged.
As such, police checks should be employed as part of a larger risk management strategy. They should not be relied upon to mitigate risk entirely.
5. What Information Is Included in a Police Check?
When an employee provides a police check, you will see one of two things written on their certificate: Disclosable Court Outcomes (DCOs) or No Disclosable Court Outcomes (NDCOs). If they have NDCOs, that means that they have no former offences or criminal convictions that are likely to undermine their ability to do their job.
In other cases, though, when DCOs are listed on a national police check certificate, the employee in question has former convictions that you probably need to know about. You see, any DCOs that are listed on a police check have been deemed relevant to the job the applicant does by the National Police Checking Service.
What this means is that any past convictions disclosed on a national police check are likely to be related to the applicant’s job in some way. Say, for example, that one of your employees handles cash on a daily basis. If they have a conviction of theft, that will most likely be flagged on their certificate. Meanwhile, a traffic offence probably wouldn’t.
How Do Organisations Know that the Relevant Convictions Have Been Disclosed?
All applicants are required to provide information about the type and purpose of their police check before submission. This information will be used to decide which of their convictions, if any, should be included on their certificate.
Click here to see what details your employees will be asked to disclose at the start of their application process. It includes the role they are currently in or applying for, whether that role involves working with children, the elderly, or vulnerable people, and the name of the organisation requesting the police check.
Will All Previous Convictions Be Included in an Employee’s Police Check?
No. Because of the information applicants provide about the purpose of their police check, any DCOs listed on their certificate will only be included if they are deemed relevant to that purpose. In addition, older convictions may not be included even if they are relevant due to something called spent convictions legislation.
Spent convictions legislation states that convictions that are more than 10 years old can essentially be wiped from a person’s record. There are caveats, though, and the legislation is applied differently in different States and Territories. So, if your employee is applying for a police check in West Australia, their DCOs may be different from those listed on a police check certificate in Queensland.
6. Can Employees Refuse to Provide a Police Check?
Employees are completely within their rights to refuse to provide a police check, whether during a job application process or while working for your company. No Australian citizen is legally obligated to apply for a police check and organisations cannot force people to acquire one.
During your employee’s police check application process, they will be asked to provide consent before their form is submitted. Without consent, it is unlawful for any police checking service to carry out a check and it is entirely at the discretion of that individual whether or not they choose to provide consent.
Employers can, however, make it a condition of a person’s employment that they apply for a police check online on a regular basis. In some cases, organisations may even bring disciplinary proceedings against an employee who refuses. So, while workers can refuse, doing so is likely to have consequences.
In What Instances Might Disciplinary Proceedings Be Appropriate?
In industries where ascertaining a person’s suitability for a role is paramount, disciplinary proceedings may be considered appropriate when an employee refuses to apply for a police check. But, keep in mind that any disciplinary measures have to be considered lawful and reasonable.
Say, for example, that a person works in a sector with strict licensing and accreditation requirements. In this instance, disciplinary measures would likely be considered both lawful and reasonable should they refuse to provide a police check. This is because their refusal could put the people they work with or a company’s assets at risk.
7. Can Organisations Fire Employees Who Refuse to Provide a Police Check?
The law may vary slightly depending on the State or Territory a business is based in. But, whether an employee refuses to provide a police check in NSW or one in the Northern Territory, they may, in some cases, face dismissal. This should only ever happen when the grounds for requesting a police check are deemed lawful and reasonable.
To put it another way, if a person works in a company where the provision of regular police checks is considered a fair condition of their employment, they could be fired for refusing. This is because employers need to know that a person is fit for the role and will not pose a threat to the people or assets the company presides over.
There are anti-discrimination laws in place to ensure that people are not unfairly dismissed for refusing to provide a police check to their employer. Just as an employee cannot be fired for having a criminal history that is irrelevant to their position, they also cannot be fired for refusing to disclose it if it isn’t considered strictly necessary to the job that they do.
8. How Should Organisations Refer Employees for a Criminal Record Check?
Refer your employee to the Crime Check Australia website when requesting a criminal record check. We are an accredited national police checking body and provide the easiest possible platform for users to complete their application. All they have to do is click “apply” to start the process and follow five simple steps, including:
- Providing their full name, contact details, and information relating to the purpose of their background check.
- Paying the fees using the secure online portal.
- Entering additional personal details including gender information, their date of birth, and five years’ worth of address history.
- Uploading full-colour photos or scans of four different forms of identifying documentation and a selfie of them holding one form of photo ID.
- Provide consent and that’s it! The application is ready for submission.
The application process is the same across the country. So, as an example, applying for a police check Victoria would be the same as applying for one in Queensland on the Crime Check Australia website.
How Long Does It Take to Complete a Criminal Record Check?
It should only take your employee around five minutes to fill in their application. Following submission, the vast majority (70%) of checks take just one business day to complete and their certificate will be emailed to them immediately upon completion. However, in some cases, the police checking process can take up to 15 business days.
So, if your employee is required to provide a police check by a strict deadline, recommend that they apply for one at least 10 days before it’s needed. And, if there is a delay and you or your employee become concerned, they can either check on the status of their application on the website or contact us for more information.