Having regular police checks as part of your company policy is a good way to mitigate risks for your business. Police checks can reveal if your employee was recently involved in fraudulent or other risky behaviour. They also serve as a safeguard if you are considering an employee for promotion and giving them access to more sensitive files.
In many cases, nothing pops up.
There are times, however, when a police check reveals a recent criminal offence. What action should employers take in these situations?
A key to fairly and legally approaching this dilemma is having a decision matrix and verifying the results of the screening.
Police Check Decision Matrix
A decision matrix helps organisations decide if an offence is acceptable for a certain level of employee or not. For your company driver, for example, you can indicate in your matrix that driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol is unacceptable. For general employees, however, since it does not affect their ability to do their job, you can mark a charge for DUI as acceptable.
Creating the decision matrix is something that the HR and senior staff need to discuss and agree, so it can be tailored specifically to your organisation’s unique needs. You will also need to have the matrix checked by your business’ lawyer to avoid unlawful discrimination or go against any individual’s rights.
Verifying Police Check Records
Due to illegible consent forms, outdated records and numerous individuals with the same name, some police check providers may give certificates with errors. For cases like these, you can hire a trusted vetting agency to manually double-check the results at the involved court or police department.
It is also best to inform your employee of the result as they have a right to dispute false or inaccurate information on their background checks. Opening a dialogue with them on the police check result also gives them a chance to explain the circumstances surrounding the criminal offence.
Making the Decision
Upon verifying and discussing the offence with the employee, the employer is left to decide whether to terminate the contract. Each case must, of course, be decided in its proper context. But aside from the relevance of the offence to the job, other factors to consider are:
- how recent the offence was committed
- the individual’s age when they committed the offence
- if there is a pattern or likelihood of reoffending
- the court’s sentence
- evidence of rehabilitation
For industries where employees are not required by law to undergo background checks, making the decision is highly complex. This is another situation where you can consult your business’ lawyer if your process and chosen action do not go against your employee’s rights.
If your background checking policy is new, it is important to make your policy and process as transparent as possible. While it may seem time-consuming to double-check results, consult lawyers and give employees a chance to dispute results, it is important to act cautiously to ensure that you are not unfairly discriminating or going against the rights of the employee.