Police check assessment guidance

The assessment and management of police checks are a complex part of recruiting this cohort.

A balancing act

When assessing and managing police checks it is important to balance the risk posed to your service delivery, workplace, staff and reputation, with the risk of excluding and creating unnecessary barriers to engaging people with lived experience of the justice system.

The tips below will provide you with a clear and consistent approach to assessing risk and to guiding the decision-making process.

A step-by-step guide

It is important to understand whether the role you are recruiting for requires a police check.

For some employers due to licencing and registration bodies, they are legally required to screen job applicants.

If there is no legal requirement for the role you are assessing, follow the steps below to decide if a police check is required:

  1. Identify the critical tasks, circumstances and requirements of the job.
  2. Assess whether a criminal record is relevant to the role, tasks and requirements of the job.

If you decide a police check is relevant to the role, read through the next section.

Due to previous negative experiences, the application and recruitment process for jobs can be a daunting process for people with lived experience of the justice system. 

We recommend that your organisation clarifies in the recruitment process how the police check information will be utilised and whether that is a disqualifying factor. 

This might include adding the following sentence to your recruitment process:

“People with lived experience of the justice system are encouraged to apply. A police check result does not automatically disqualify an application which in each case will be individually assessed for the relevant role.”

Employers are encouraged to create a fair and consistent process for dealing with the disclosure of a record. 

It is recommended that when creating a police check assessment process, the organisation considers: 

  1. Developing and utilising a standardised police check assessment process.
    For an example on what this assessment may include please refer to the next step. 
  2. The types of risks which are relevant to your business and how they may be mitigated
  3. Ensuring Privacy and Data collection security, as information collected regarding an individual must only be used for the purpose of determining suitability for placement and effectively managing any identified risk.
  4. Funding and service agreements which may prevent your organisation from employing people with a particular criminal history for specific roles. 
  5. The final decision-maker for the business.

The steps above promote a standardised decision-making process, decreasing the risk of discrimination on the basis of a criminal record.

The assessment of a police check is an important component of the recruitment process. There is no mathematical formula that can make this decision for your business. Assessments within your organisation should utilise a standard assessment process and criteria while being specific to your organisation, the role and the applicant. 

You may choose to consider the following criteria when conducting police check assessments:

  • Identify essential tasks to the job
  • The type of the offence 
  • The relevance of the offence to the role applied for 
  • Length of time passed since the offence 
  • Applicant’s age at the time of the offence (with a particular focus on the level of maturity at the time of the offence)

Creating random blanket rules which are not supported by any regulatory requirements increases the chances of discrimination on the basis of a criminal record.

It is important that decision makers act fairly when conducting an assessment. This includes allowing the applicant who will be affected by the assessment the opportunity to be heard, whether through oral or written submissions, before the decision is made.

It is recommended that before making a decision the employer contacts the applicant to discuss the police check result. Prepared questions will ensure your organisation has a consistent assessment approach.

The questions should support an assessment of the applicant’s suitability to engage with your organisation. All the questions asked should be directly linked to the police check record and its relevance to the role the applicant has applied for. 

Examples of questions you may use could include:

  • To support us in making a decision about your suitability to this role, could you share your perspective of what happened and/or is there anything you would like to share with us that you think would be helpful to the decision making process? 
  • Can you provide any additional context? 

If you require more context, you may need to use prompting questions.  

However, before going through the prompting questions, it is beneficial to explain why you are asking these questions. You may choose to say something like: "We understand there are many complexities and challenges that people face and as a result we consider each person’s circumstances on an individual level. This is to ensure this is a suitable role for you, and that you are supported in it." 

Examples of prompting questions 

  • Due to the nature/currency of the offence, we need to understand better the circumstances surrounding the offence. Can you provide some more detail for me, please? 
  • What changes have there been in your personal circumstances since these offences occurred? 
  • What has motivated you to apply for this role, and what do you hope to gain from the experience? 
  • Do you think these offence/s will impact your ability to perform the role you have applied for? Why/why not? 
  • Is there any further information you would like to add? 

It is essential that you are open with the applicant regarding the outcome of their application. Ideally, organisations should call the applicant to approve or decline their application while advising them the justification behind their decision. Feedback is an important tool for applicants to improve their application next time. 

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