Frequently Asked Questions: Criminal Record Checks

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25 October 2022 >> , , ,

Frequently Asked Questions: Criminal Record Checks

Frequently Asked Questions: Criminal Record Checks

TAKEAWAY: While a criminal record will not necessarily preclude hiring a potential candidate, it does help provide employers with a more comprehensive picture of the person they are hiring. It can help reduce liability, keep employees and the public safe and ensure you are hiring the right person for the job. 

By Jennifer Crump

According to the Canadian Department of Public Safety, approximately 3.8 million Canadians have a criminal record. That’s approximately 1 in 9 Canadians. In the United States, it’s 1 in 3, as between 70 million and 100 million Americans have some sort of criminal record. In this series, we delve into frequently asked questions about criminal record checks. Happy reading!

What is a criminal record check?

A criminal record check will produce a record of criminal offences, including charges and convictions pulled from official government databases. Sometimes known as a police records check, these checks provide a detailed history of an individual’s interactions with police and the justice system. They will not, however, include juvenile justice records, pardons or records that have been legally expunged. 

Why is it essential for employers to conduct criminal record checks before hiring new employees?

A background check that includes a criminal record can help protect your company, employees, and the public from harm. It’s also an opportunity to learn more about your potential new hire. 

For example, you will need to know if the candidate has a criminal history that might impact their job performance. 

Hiring the wrong person is costly. Resources are wasted, and your team’s morale and productivity can suffer. The damage can be challenging to overcome if a bad hire harms your company’s reputation. And the costs of leveraging a public relations firm to fix it can also be incredibly costly. 

Finally, liability concerns often drive criminal background checks. Companies are liable in many cases for the actions of their employees. For example, you will not want to hire a delivery driver with a history of DUI convictions. Theft concerns could concern a financial firm, and assault charges may interest a company with vulnerable clients or customers. 

What types of criminal offences appear on a criminal record check, and how likely is it that an applicant will have a criminal record?

Unfortunately, given the sheer number of people with records in both the U.S. and Canada, applicants will likely have a criminal record. What appears in a criminal record check depends on who you hire to conduct the search and whether your company is in the U.S. or Canada. 

In Canada, criminal records checks typically include a search for summary and indictable criminal convictions listed in the Canadian Police Information CPIC or local databases.  For an additional fee, employers can also receive a criminal records check that includes: 

  • Outstanding entries include charges and warrants, judicial orders, peace bonds, and probation and prohibition orders. As per CPIC policy, information obtained from the Investigative Databank must be confirmed and authorized for release by the contributing agency.
  • Absolute and conditional discharges were still within the applicable disclosure periods.
  • Family Court Restraining Orders.
  • Charged and processed by other means, such as diversion, will only be released as police contact.
  • Dispositions include, but are not limited to, withdrawn, dismissed, and cases of not criminally responsible because of mental disorder.
  • A review of all eligible police contacts, including but not limited to theft, weapons, sex offences, or violent, harmful and threatening behaviour.

In the U.S., criminal records checks will include criminal charges in county criminal court databases and national criminal databases that include county courthouse, state and correctional institution records. It will also include a search of terrorist watch lists, financial institution sanctions and other security searches, and a search of the national sex offender registry. 

For additional fees, employers can request a federal criminal court search of the last seven years for criminal activities related to fraud, tax evasion, bank robbery, child pornography, Security & Exchange Commission crimes, drug trafficking, kidnapping and transport of illegal aliens. They can also request a wants and warrants search of state and county courthouses and correctional institutions. 

How can employers conduct criminal record checks on potential employees, and what are the consequences of not doing so?

Employers should seek the assistance of a reputable search firm or background check provider. This ensures that the criminal record check is comprehensive but also helps ensure that employers are following the legal requirements in their jurisdiction for these types of background checks. 

Not requiring a criminal records check for new hires can have unintended consequences that put your organization, people or the public at risk. Criminal records checks can help employers:

  • Know who they are hiring and ensure their criminal past will not impact their job performance. For example, financial companies might want to avoid those with theft convictions. 
  • Keep people safe by identifying violent criminals, sex offenders or others who could put fellow workers, clients or customers at risk of harm. 
  • Reduce liability risks by identifying known issues for employees. For example, you would want to avoid hiring a driver with a history of dangerous driving convictions. If you failed to do a background check on that driver or a violent criminal and someone is hurt, you could be held liable. 
  • Avoid the risk of reputational harm by avoiding a hire that could put your business reputation at risk. 

How can employers conduct criminal record checks on applicants?

A criminal record check is a best practice for most employers and can help ensure workplace safety and health. Employers should start with a thorough understanding of the business and the types of records checks and convictions that are important to that business. Financial institutions, for example, may want to avoid hiring those with theft convictions, while those dealing with vulnerable clients, such as children, will want to prevent assault convictions. 

Here are a few additional tips for ensuring your criminal records checks go as smoothly as possible. 

  • Employ the services of a reputable firm 
  • Ensure you get written consent from the prospective new hire
  • Send the results of the check to the prospective employee to confirm factual accuracy 
  • Maintain an up-to-date background check policy and provide a copy to prospective employees
  • Understand that background checks, including criminal records checks, can only be conducted for employment purposes to determine suitability for a job. 

Contact us to Book Background Testing Today!

Hiring the wrong person can be costly and time-consuming. Bad hires can lead to low morale, decreased productivity, and even lawsuits. Background Checks provide key information about your job candidates, supporting more informed decision-making when finding the right hire. We offer criminal record checks, educational verification, and employment verification so you can feel confident in your hiring decisions.

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