The basics: Criminal background checks

Employers have several options to consider when screening candidates
By Alysha Feasby
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 02/01/2018
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It is wise to review the criminal record of applicants who are interested in positions in the following sectors: health care, education, finance, HR, information technology, security and research and development. Credit: BPTU (Shutterstock)

People lie, this we know. Just look at the results of a 2015 survey by CareerBuilder Canada that found 49 per cent of more than 400 hiring managers have caught a lie on a job applicant’s resumé.

Looking to combat this, many HR professionals are familiar with the process of criminal background checks in Canada, knowing how to conduct them, and why they are necessary. But are they up-to-date on the latest developments?

When completing any pre-employment screening, the background screening process should be evaluated regularly to remain current.

Types of checks

There are three types of criminal background checks to screen job candidates before offering employment:

Police record checks: Criminal record checks or police record checks involve a search based on an applicant’s name or aliases, date of birth, and gender. They provide information related to criminal convictions that have not been pardoned by the RCMP.

Searches from these checks are sourced by the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) database, which is managed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), and are not certified.

Police information check: Police information checks report on pending charges, discharges, warrants, and prohibitions. These checks use the Police Information Portal.

Unlike the record check, this background screening locates current contacts with local police, including suspect records and current convictions that may not already be logged in the CPIC database.

This check is advantageous because it can be more current than information logged in the CPIC database, which is sometimes out of date.

Vulnerable sector record check: The objective of a vulnerable sector check is to protect children and other vulnerable persons. It checks whether an applicant has a criminal record, as well as any record suspensions or pardons for sexual offences, and any police records related to the check.

Vulnerable sector checks are governed by section 6.3(3) of the Criminal Records Act.

Information for these checks can come from:

•local police records

•the Police Information Portal

•the National Repository of Criminal Records

•the CPIC.

Who needs a check

For both criminal and vulnerable checks, it is the responsibility of the employer or HR representative to determine who needs to be checked based on a company’s policies and procedures.

It is wise to review the criminal record of applicants who are interested in positions in the following sectors: health care, education, finance, HR, information technology, security and research and development.

The following industries should also have vulnerable sector checks as a part of their screening process: education, health care, child care and sports team coaches.

Local laws may also require vulnerable sector checks, so it is important to review those to ensure compliance. And, again, it is important that every organization has established policies and procedures for who is required to get a background check of any kind.

Who conducts the checks

With both certified and uncertified criminal background checks and vulnerable sector checks, it is the responsibility of the employer or HR representative to initiate the check based on a company’s policies and procedures.

To initiate a criminal record check, the designated individual should contact police services or a third-party service provider in Canada that specializes in these types of checks.

Police services use a job candidate’s basic personal information to perform searches in the national database and its own local police records.

Third-party background check companies will do the same, and may also request additional checks of other national databases as a part of their service.

Vulnerable sector checks are only conducted by the Canadian police service where the job candidate lives. To obtain a vulnerable sector check, the designated individual should refer applicants to his local police service in his jurisdiction.

It is the responsibility of the applicant to go to his local police department to get the police information check and provide it to the employer.

Consistency is important when running pre-employment screenings of any kind. Every organization with employees should have documented policies and procedures related to background screenings. These policies and procedures, and adherence to them, will help prevent bad hire situations, as well as the legal implications that can result from them.

Requirements, considerations

The requirements for actually running a criminal background check vary based on the type of check being run. Police or uncertified criminal record checks and vulnerable sector checks only require a candidate’s name (and aliases, as applicable), date of birth and gender.

Employers also need signed consent and identification verification.

Some background screening companies have the ability to use electronic ID verification (E-IV) rather than having witness signatures, and ID. But if an employer does not have access to the technology, it would require two pieces of identification and a witness signature, verifying the identity of the candidate.

Certified checks require fingerprints to verify an individual’s identity.

Employers should also consider the following:

Informed consent and disclosure: Criminal information cannot be released without the full, informed and voluntary consent of a job candidate. Employers should give job applicants an opportunity to divulge their criminal backgrounds. This information can be verified during the check.

Position relevance: Background checks should be relevant to the job the applicant is applying for. All information released must be predetermined and limited by the relevance to the job.

Data privacy: Employers should comply with data privacy laws, including but not limited to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) and the Privacy Act. National consumer reporting and human and civil rights laws should also be considered.

Dispute: If an applicant feels the results of a check are disputable, she must be given the opportunity to challenge the accuracy and comprehensiveness of the information resulting from a check.

Compliance an ongoing concern

Compliance is an ongoing concern for every company, so it is important for HR professionals to be aware of legal changes on both a national and local level.

For example, some provinces have enacted laws similar to the data privacy laws mentioned above. Additionally, there have been recent changes to the RCMP consent form requirements that should be adhered to.

A complete understanding of the benefits and requirements of criminal background checks will help employers maintain a comprehensive and compliant pre-employment screening process.

Alysha Feasby is an account manager at Triton Canada in Toronto, a service provider that provides criminal background checks. For more information, visit www.tritoncanada.ca.

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