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What are Police Checks and Why are They Important?

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What is a Police Check? 

An Australian Police Check is a document that lists an individual's disclosable court outcomes and pending charges sourced from police jurisdiction databases. 

Also known as a Police Criminal History check, this will reveal if a person has any prior convictions (regardless of if they are served or unserved). These could include:

  • Criminal charges such as assault, sexual offences, violence, including any suspended sentences
  • Findings of guilt
  • Traffic violations like drink driving or speeding
  • Pending court charges

What will not show up in a Police Check?

Australian National Character Check outlines that for an Australian Police Check, the following offences will not show up as part of a Police Check: 

  • Findings of non-guilt
  • Inconclusive, incomplete or dropped charges
  • Penalties that were imposed by institutions or professional bodies
  • International convictions 
  • Matters that were prosecuted by authorities other than the police
  • Diversionary programs
  • Traffic infringements that do not lead to convictions including fines, cautions and tickets. 

What about other countries?

Xref’s integration partner Screening Canada allows Xref customers to request compliant Canadian background checks from within an Xref account.

Background checks via Screening Canada include:

  • Criminal Searches
  • Drivers License Verifications by Canadian province
  • Drivers Abstracts by Canadian province

While Xref does not offer Police Checks for the USA and UK, the following information may be useful if you are based or hiring in these jurisdictions.

Police Checks for the United States of America

In America, an employer may conduct an FBI background check. An FBI background check is required for all prospective employees of federal agencies, public and private schools, local law enforcement, and independent contractor positions that handle sensitive data. Depending on individual state laws, additional professions may also require FBI background checks.

Police Checks for the UK

The UK Government states that employers can check your criminal record no matter what role you apply for. This is called a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check. For certain roles such as working with children or healthcare, an employer can request a more detailed DBS check. 

List of 4 types of DBS checks - basic, standard, enhanced and barred lists

There are four types of DBS check:

  • a basic check, which shows unspent convictions and conditional cautions
  • a standard check, which shows any spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings
  • an enhanced check, which shows the same as a standard check plus any information held by local police that’s considered relevant to the role
  • an enhanced check with barred lists, which shows the same as an enhanced check plus whether you’re on the list of people barred from doing the role

A DBS check can only cover an individual’s time residing in the UK. If an individual has lived abroad, then an employer can ask the individual for a check in the other country or countries they have lived in, or seek permission to conduct a check through the relevant embassy. 

Why are Police Checks Important? 

Numbered list of why police checks are important - protect your organisation, promote good conduct and increase trust with clients

Conducting a Police Check can help you to:

1. Protect your Organisation

By conducting a police check, you can determine if a candidate or current employee has a criminal history that may have an impact on their role. For example, if you are hiring someone for a financial role, it would be important to understand if they have been convicted of fraud in the past. 

2. Promote Good Conduct

In addition to protecting your organisation, if current employees are aware that police checks are conducted regularly, they are more likely to be aware of their actions. Any misconduct could cost them their job. This can help you protect the safety of all employees and customers and protect your reputation.

3. Increase Trust with Clients

Everyone wants to work with someone they trust. Your employees and clients alike. 

For some particular industries such as working with children, elderly or other vulnerable groups they can help you assess each potential employee for unwanted behaviours. 

Or, if your employees are in a position of trust, for example offering in-home services like cleaning, appliance repair and more, you may want to consider conducting a police check so your clients know that whoever comes into their home is trustworthy and professional. 

When should I conduct a Police Check?

You can conduct it before employing a new person or you can create a policy that lets all your employees know you will conduct police checks at regular intervals - say annually. 

According to the Australian Human Rights Commission,

“an employer should only ask job applicants and employees to disclose criminal record information if certain criminal convictions or offences are relevant to the inherent requirements of the job.”

The Australian Human Right Commission also notes that

asking an applicant or employee irrelevant questions about their criminal record and then relying on this information to treat the person less favourably could be discrimination.”

The key here is relevance - there are some roles that a company can choose not to give you because of a particular transgression - say a financial role after being convicted of fraud. 

David Haines, Director of RapidID (an Xref company) believes that,

“Conducting a Police Check and other employment-related checks means employers are ‘doing their homework’. Pre-employment checks help with record-keeping and can be supportive if you are ever called into question on your hiring practises. 
In an environment where hiring is becoming increasingly remote, these extra checks are important to ensuring hiring mistakes are reduced or eliminated. Taking the extra time now, ensures that organisations save time in the long run and get the best talent.” 

Who should I conduct a Police Check on? 

Consider roles that are in a position of trust, such as finance, volunteers, government, those working with vulnerable groups of people and more.

It should be noted that you may not be able to perform a Police Check without consent from that candidate or employee first. 

You can conduct a police check on candidates applying for a role in your organisation or on current employees. Conducting a Police Check on existing employees can assist to ensure they maintain any industry-specific requirements. 

How to conduct a Police Check?

Xref provides a marketplace where you can conduct many different types of checks that satisfy compliance requirements. The benefit of using Xref to complete your pre-employment checks is that you can easily request all the checks you need in one place. 

By using software to complete pre-employment checks you can be sure your candidate is who they say they are. 

Depending on what jurisdiction you are obtaining your Police Check in, and the level of detail required will depend on the process for applying for and completing a Police Check. In Australia, an individual may be able to apply for a National Police Check online or in-person (for example at their local Australia Post Office).

Do I need to ask for candidate permission before conducting a Police Check?

Yes. For privacy and reputation protection purposes, no one is permitted to check another person’s police record without their consent. A record of a criminal history for employment purposes will not be released without the signed consent of the person who is the subject of the police check.

What other verification checks should I conduct? 

There are many other employment verification checks you may choose, or be required by law to conduct. These include, but are not limited to:

To find out more about additional checks that you can conduct, meet our checking partners. To verify the background of your candidate, and the validity of their identity documents, in a secure and seamless way, consider our partner RapidID. 

Where can I learn more about Police Checks? 

Get in touch with our team to learn more about how you can conduct a Police Check in an easy and compliant way.

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