Monday, 7 April 2014

Like it or Not - Police Checks are a New Reality

In order to gain employment, many potential employees are now being required to obtain a  Police Check from a relevant agency which has been allowed by CrimTrac to access the National Police Checking Service and to issue police history checks.

Once received, employers may use the results of the police check to determine the suitability of a candidate for a particular role based upon a person's criminal history, including any past convictions and pending charges they may have.

The Benefits of Obtaining a National Police History Check for Employment
The benefits of obtaining a national police check are largely enjoyed by the employer. These checks allow them to be satisfied that those people they employ do not have an undesirable criminal record which might indicate that the past behaviour of the potential employee suggests possible future problems and issues with that employee.

It is also beneficial to the populace in general to be assured that those who are employed in positions where they have contact with vulnerable people do not have a criminal history which might endanger these individuals. And moreover that one's colleagues do not possess a criminal record.

For potential employees, having a police history check which indicates that they do not have any disclosable or pending court charges may allow them the 'edge' in their job hunt over other similar candidates. They can give future employers the confidence that they are responsible and law-abiding citizens.

The Downsides of National Police History Checks for Job Searchers
However, some would say that the whole idea of police history checks is rotten, that no employer has a right to access such personal information about applicants and employees. Indeed, for those individuals who do have a criminal record, but have since altered the way they live their lives and have not re-offended, providing their police history check may prejudice future employers against hiring them. Especially, as it can take up to 10 years for a conviction to become spent.

In addition, particularly for those individuals who do not have a criminal history, having to obtain a police history check can be an unnecessary added burden and a barrier to their gaining employment. While the cost of these checks are low, they are not free; and while they usually can be processed fairly swiftly, they do not come through instantaneously. In the worst case scenario, if an individual who cannot afford it requires a police check immediately or within a day or two in order to secure a job interview or obtain a job, it is possible they will miss out completely on being considered for a role or even on an employment opportunity.

Striking a Middle Ground
However, one can see that overall the requirement of some employers for their potential employees to provide evidence of a clear police history check is mostly beneficial. Certainly, for businesses and organisations there is not downside. For those individuals who have not committed any relevant crimes in the past, a little forethought in ensuring a police history check is obtained, if they think they will require it, early on in their job search should allow them to search for work unimpeded by this requirement and may give potential employers more confidence in hiring them. Also, overall, the fees to obtain a check are not overly prohibitive and can be viewed as a necessary expenditure in their job search.

For those who do have past convictions that would appear on a police history check, they may still be given the opportunity to argue their case to potential employers that that which appears on their check is no longer relevant as it happened, for example, a long time ago and they do not intend to do such things in the future.

For those with recent or pending charges, obtaining a national police check may well damage their changes of gaining employment in certain fields. However, many hold the belief this is a 'necessary evil', and one that primarily penalises and punishes those who have chosen in the past to commit crimes without thought to how their actions might affect their future or damage society at large.