Many industries in Australia require a criminal history check as part of pre-employment screening for various jobs. When you have a criminal record, it can be concerning to be asked every time to provide a national police certificate. Many people feel they will be excluded immediately, but this is not always the case. A criminal record doesn’t have to stop you from getting your dream job.
It can feel like a struggle to be treated fairly when applying for jobs which ask for a background check as part of the entry requirements, especially as protocol is strict throughout Australia. While it can seem that there is a stigma surrounding criminal records, it is never a good idea to lie about your history to an employer.
What Is A Criminal Record?
A criminal record is a document of an individual’s police history stored in the national police database. It contains information relating to all disclosable prior convictions and pending charges. A National Police Check is performed using a person’s identity information to search the database for a match and retrieve the record.
Most organisations request an updated national police certificate as part of job entry requirements for screening candidates before allowing them to join the workforce. This is not mandatory in all cases, but certain occupations do require mandatory screening.
Which Sectors Require A Criminal History Check?
The sectors which commonly ask candidates for a compulsory criminal history check are:
- Aged care
- Money-related jobs such as banking
- UBER and other GIG economy companies
Why Is It A Bad Idea To Lie?
Lying to an employer immediately creates a relationship based on dishonesty. It can make you fearful of your past being revealed and affect your work life. Telling the truth means you do not have to worry about being discovered further down the line, which could jeopardize all of the work you have done for the job.
You will inevitably be found out, and placed in a bad position. Dishonesty is not taken lightly by employers, and the discovery could result in dismissal.
Rather than lying about the record or withholding information, you can show the employer that you are still suitable for the role, and have learnt from past mistakes. Building a credible case by gaining support from others who can testify to your good character will help you in the recruitment process.
How Should I Handle My Criminal Record?
The best way to handle your criminal background with a potential employer is to be open and honest about it, where required. Showing your employer that you have taken responsibility for your actions will assure them that you still have potential to be a good hire.
Many offences people hold on a criminal record are from a long time ago. Employers will take this into consideration when reviewing your police check results. Many are able to overlook past convictions if the candidate seems otherwise suitable for the role, and does not have a criminal history which could directly affect their suitability for the role.
Avoid Certain Jobs
There are some jobs which require a clean record indefinitely. As criminal records are typically job relevant, prospective employees should try to avoid applying for jobs where their specific background is likely to be an issue.
For example, an individual with a record for fraud is unlikely to be suitable for a job working in a bank or another finance sector handling other’s money and personal information. Consider the similarities between jobs and past offences.
Will My Criminal History Prevent Me Getting A Job?
When applying for a job, it is important to know that police checks are job relevant. While having a criminal record might feel daunting, it’s important to understand that this does not immediately exclude the applicant from being employed.
The relevancy of an individual’s criminal history is taken into consideration when their police check is reviewed. A main factor taken into consideration when police authorities assess a person’s police history is how relevant the offence is to the role, and whether it will directly put others or the company at risk. Police agencies handling the check application will liaise and determine which information is to be disclosed in the results of the police clearance.
A traffic offence on your record is unlikely to impact your chances of taking a role in an industry which does not require driving or operating a vehicle.
Less serious crimes are assessed at the discretion of the employer or organisation following their own risk assessments for recruiting staff. However, there are certain occupations where certain offences are excluded. This generally applies to serious crimes, such as violent crimes or offences which are sexually-related. These types of offences will exclude you from getting a job in childcare, aged care, education and many other positions of trust.
Depending on what the offence is, other factors to be considered include:
- The relevancy of the offence to the job role
- How long ago the offence took place
- In care sectors, the level of contact to vulnerable persons will be considered
- Whether the record demonstrates a pattern of behaviour, or a single event
- The attitude of the individual towards their criminal history, for example, if they demonstrate responsibility or remorse for their actions
Do I have To Disclose My Criminal History?
Every person must provide informed consent to the details of their criminal record check being disclosed. If an employer asks you to provide a national police certificate and you do not consent, you are not obligated to provide the information against your will. However, you will need to decline their request, and look for another job somewhere else.
In jobs where the condition of a background check is mandatory, you will have to seek employment elsewhere if you are not prepared to consent to a police check, as you cannot get around mandatory rules. The rules are in place for safety and security reasons, and everybody should respect the system.
What Rights Do I Have?
Nobody is required by law to volunteer details of their criminal record. They have the right to refuse to answer questions relating to it, and must give consent for a police check to be performed. But if the position they are applying for requires this information, they will have to comply in order to continue with the application process, otherwise they will have to politely decline and terminate the application.
Most jobs will clarify that a National Police Check is needed for the position. This gives the individual the opportunity to continue with the application or to look elsewhere. Understanding why a background check is required can help the applicant to decide whether they want to continue.
When applying for a job and the employer asks you for national police clearance, the purpose for the check must be relevant to the job in question. By law, your consent is required before any sort of check is conducted. There are privacy laws in place, as well as anti-discimation laws to protect those who have a criminal record from unfair treatment by employers.
After requesting a police check, your results will either show No Disclosable Court Outcomes or Disclosable Court Outcomes. If you have a criminal record, you should understand what might count as disclosable and non-disclosable.
Certain convictions and charges will not always be disclosed on your certificate. Whether or not it is depends on the legislation of different Australian states and territories. The only way to find out is to obtain a National Police Check.
If you find that a conviction is not disclosed in your results, it generally means that the offence is not considered disclosable. This means after review, it has been determined that the offence is not relevant or suitable to the purpose behind why you need the police check.
A good example is that a traffic offence may not be disclosed if the police check was conducted for employment with a retail company which does not require driving of any kind.
Spent Convictions Legislation
The National Police Checking Service is the system which provides access to criminal records for police agencies and NPC providers. Access to this system is managed by the Australian Crime Commission Act 2002, which follows Commonwealth, state and territory legislation, of which is applied to the information retrieved for a police check.
Spent convictions legislation is a scheme used across Australia, as well as information release policies which are used to decide what criminal history information is released in the results of a Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check.
Each state and territory has policies in place for the disclosure of criminal convictions. The police authorities are responsible for issuing the relevant laws using the information policies.
If you have a criminal record and you want to know more legislation, you should contact the individual police agency for your state or territory and request the information.
In Australia, some convictions will become spent after 10 years. This does not mean that they are erased from your history, but rather considered irrelevant for the purposes of employment. Where a conviction is spent, the individual is not required to tell an employer about it. Except however, in circumstances where it is important to share this information, particularly if applying for child-related work.
Why Do Employers Need My Criminal History Information?
Some employers need to view the criminal record information of potential employees. This is because companies need to know the true identity of the candidate they are hiring, so that they can make an informed judgement on whether they are safe and suitable for hire.
This is particularly crucial in jobs where the individual has access to vulnerable people, or access to their personal information such as financial details.
As well as keeping vulnerable people in the community safe, screening employees protects the business’s name, its assets and sensitive data. Employers want to know that they can trust a new employee, and reduce the chances of criminal activity.
Individuals should remember that having a criminal record does not banish them from all employment. While there are certain jobs which will not accept a record, there are still many jobs that will.
The applicant should never lie to an employer about his or her criminal history, as a police check will reveal that the applicant has been dishonest when the results are returned. Dishonesty is never a good way to begin a relationship with an employer. By being honest about your past, you become credible and give yourself a better chance of building strong work relationships.