How To Find Employment With A Criminal Record In Australia
As an individual with a criminal record, the task of finding employment can be daunting. While there are lots of jobs where a record won’t be a problem, there are many industries that do require a criminal history check. It is a non-negotiable requirement for certain occupations, particularly with sensitive jobs. While a record can be discouraging, you can still find work regardless of your police history, provided the offences do not have a direct impact on the role itself. While it may limit some opportunities, many people still have successful careers with a criminal record.
Protocol for managing employment screening is strict in Australia, but knowing how to handle your record and refusing to be discouraged by your past can go a long way in finding the right job for you.
What Is A Criminal Record?
A criminal record is a record held on police files about the criminal history of a person. The record includes all details of offences which you have been convicted for, which you have been found guilty of or have pleaded guilty to.
A criminal record is accessed by authorities for various reasons, and is commonly assessed for the purpose of a National Police Check. This type of check generates a national police certificate which documents the findings of the police record where appropriate.
Who Has Access To My Criminal Record?
Your criminal record is only accessible by the courts and police authorities. No other person is permitted to access your criminal record without consent from you. If you are applying for an Australian police check with an accredited agency such as Crime Check Australia, you will need to give informed consent before the details of the record can be released.
Informed consent is confirmation that the individual has read and understood how their personal information will be used when submitting an application for a police check.
In cases of police checks for employment, your employer must obtain consent before viewing the details of the record.
How Long Will A Criminal Record Last?
A conviction regardless of the crime will remain on your criminal record permanently. However, some convictions will eventually qualify to become spent. A spent conviction is a conviction which remains on your record, but is generally not released in the results of a national police check.
The spent conviction essentially expires after a certain amount of time, and is no longer permitted to be disclosed, except for in cases where it is considered relevant. Sometimes spent convictions are disclosed to employers in sectors such as childcare and healthcare for safety purposes.
How Does A Criminal Record Impact Employment?
A criminal record can have an impact on job opportunities. For certain occupations, a criminal record is not permitted, and therefore you may be disqualified from applying to certain roles.
Some jobs which could immediately disqualify an applicant with a police record are:
- Government jobs
- Police jobs
- Child-related work
- Working with vulnerable groups
Do I Have To Disclose My Record?
In occupations where a criminal background check is mandatory, you will have to consent to a police check if you want to continue with the job application. If you are not comfortable disclosing your criminal history, you will have to forfeit the job opportunity and search for a job elsewhere.
If an employer asks about your criminal history without any legal obligation to acquire the information or request a police check, it is at your discretion whether you decide to consent to do so. If the check is not mandatory and you refuse to oblige, this may present doubts to an employer about your eligibility for the role.
While the refusal to consent to a background check may put doubts in the employer’s mind, by law they cannot discriminate against you or refuse hire on these grounds. Anti-discrimination laws are in place in Australia to protect individuals who seek work with a criminal record.
On the other hand, an offence on your record which can be directly related to the job specifics does warrant a viable reason not to hire someone.
Why Do Potential Employers Need To Know My Criminal History?
Employers need disclosure of police information from a potential employee for health and safety reasons. Some industries are stricter than others when it comes to a criminal record, but you should respect that some companies need this information.
When an employer hires somebody, they need to know that the person is who they say they are. A criminal record check not only finds details of police matters, but verifies the identity of the candidate. With access to this information, employers can assess the risks of the candidate, and decide whether they are safe to work there.
Employee screening keeps those most vulnerable safe and protected from dangerous individuals. It also protects the company assets, employees and the public from harm.
Employee screening is especially important where the following is part of the job description:
- Child-related work
- Direct contact with the elderly and disabled groups
- Handling sensitive information
- Handling finances
- Government related work
- Positions of trust
You might feel confident that you do not pose a threat, but consider the situation from an employer’s perspective. The employer does not know you, and they have a responsibility to protect the company and the people you come into contact with as an employee.
Important Information To Know If You Have A Record
If you have a criminal record, it’s important to know the impact it can have on your life. When searching for work, make sure you have an understanding of what it entails. Here is some important information to know if you have a record.
Know your rights
It is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against you on the basis of your criminal history, except where an occupation requires a clean record. For jobs in health, childcare and law for example, police clearance must be obtained to successfully continue with the recruitment process.
The candidate is under no obligation to reveal information of a criminal police record voluntarily, and is able to decline questions on the matter. The Australian Human Rights Commission handles complaints filed by individuals who feel they have been discriminated against.
Your criminal record can only be disclosed with consent
By law, nobody is allowed access to the information contained in your criminal record without your consent. Where an organisation or business requires it by law to further your job application, it is your decision as to whether you allow them to view your criminal record.
Relevancy is a key factor
A criminal background check for recruitment reasons allows the employer to make an informed decision about whether to hire a candidate. The connection between a prior offence and the job role must be considered. If the offence has no relevance to the job, the criminal record should not affect your chances of employment.
Some offences considered less serious, such as a traffic offence should not have too much of an impact on getting a job in an office, as driving is not relevant to the role. But more serious crimes such as violent and sexual charges will exclude you from certain roles. The relevancy of the offences to the unique role are an important deciding factor for employers.
Every conviction is not always disclosed
A national police certificate releases an outcome for convictions which are disclosable or non-disclosable. You might think that every conviction you have will automatically be disclosed in the results of a police check. However, there are circumstances when a conviction is not disclosed. This will depend on a variety of factors from state laws, spent convictions legislation and the purpose behind the check.
The only way to find out which offences will be disclosed is to apply for a National Police Check and await the outcome.
Tips For Finding Employment With A Criminal Record
Lots of Australians have a criminal record, and many are still able to land the job they want. It doesn’t have to sentence you to a lifetime in a job that you don’t like, or banish you from your dream one.
If a police check is required and the results come back with Disclosable Court Outcomes, there are some ways that you can better handle the situation. Here are some tips to help you through the recruitment process.
Read the job description carefully
Generally, a job that requires a mandatory background check will be stated in the advert/application. Always read the job description carefully, including any smaller details which may not seem relevant at first look.
Acknowledging the condition for a police check before applying for the role gives you the chance to consider the impact your criminal record might have. It also allows you to prepare for any questions which may be asked about your police history during the interview. This way, you will have a better understanding of whether you are eligible for the role, before putting time and effort into the application.
Don’t underestimate a good application
While having a criminal record makes many feel less confident, putting effort into a strong application can be highly beneficial. Even without a record, the first step of the recruitment process is making it from a pile of applications on the desk to the interview stage.
Give every job application your all, and you might win the attention of an employer despite your record. If the candidate is right for the job, a solid application can win over a criminal record.
Employers don’t expect everybody to be perfect
Many people with a criminal record have offences which occurred a long time ago, sometimes as a child or young adult. Lots of employers are willing to overlook this if the candidate can demonstrate their clean slate since the offence, and that they have learnt from their mistakes.
Don’t be afraid to admit to past mistakes, and focus on how you have improved on yourself since the offence.
Be smart about what you apply for
Due to the relevancy of offences being a big consideration to employers, choose your job roles wisely. You are far less likely to get a job where your criminal history can be directly linked to the specifics of the job.
Companies operating driving services will not be impressed by a candidate with traffic violations. Similarly, a candidate with money-related offences on record is unlikely to be offered a role in banking. Try to avoid applying for jobs where your record is guaranteed to be a problem.
Avoid lying to employers
While you are not obligated to tell an employer about your police history, you should still avoid telling lies about it. A new work relationship is best to be built on honesty, to avoid confrontation and potential damage in the future. Being open about your past where necessary is an honourable attribute and many employers will appreciate this kind of honesty.
A criminal record in Australia does not have to be the end of your career or career prospects. Certain convictions will inevitably reject you from some roles, but there are many areas of work still accessible. Understanding your record will put you in a good position for beginning the recruitment process and help you to find employment in Australia.