The Importance of Employee Background Checks

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The use of background checks by employers is currently becoming a necessity for new hires. For an employer to be more certain and sure when hiring, an employee background check can prove to be invaluable.

Oftentimes, it is thought that a background check is only necessary for employees that will be tasked with financial responsibilities. However, our employment lawyers are seeing more and more employers using background checks for other types of employees too – including those working directly with the public, young children, or in elderly care.


How do you run a background check on an employee?

Employee background checks can include investigations into a person’s criminal background, financial history, schooling degrees, and prior employment engagements. Each of these areas can provide an employer with valuable and much-needed information.

Any information garnered by an employer in the course of doing pre-employment background checks for employees is protected by the Privacy Act 1988. As such, before we explore these various areas of background checks, it is important that all employers remember that the information they gather cannot be accessed without a written release from the employee or potential employee, and that all information obtained is protected by the individual’s right to privacy. For more information, visit the background checks page on the Justice Connect website.

Any information that is used from a report that causes an employer to refuse a person employment must be disclosed to the prospective employee. They must also receive a copy of the report.

The employee always has the right to know the following:

  1. Why the personal information is being requested
  2. Who will have access to the information
  3. How the information will be used
  4. The right to be asked for their personal information
  5. The right to correct any misinformation
  6. The right to make a complaint against any party who mishandles their information

What does an employer look for in an employee background check?

There are a few different types of background checks an employer can legally obtain. Each check serves a different purpose for protecting different aspects of an employer’s business.

Police Check

This type of background check assesses whether the employee has a criminal history. It involves fingerprinting, filling out the appropriate paperwork, and yields a review of the potential employee’s criminal record. Any person, age 14 or older, can request to have this check performed for the purpose of gaining employment. For a free criminal record check NSW (name search only), see here.

Working with Children Checks

This type of employee background check is different from a criminal background check and must be done separately. This investigative check is defined for professions quantified in the Child Protection Act of 2012.

In addition to formal background checks, there are several steps an employer can take to ensure the integrity of potential employees. Many employers use social media as part of their background screening to review what sort of behaviour a potential employee exhibits online. Some of these steps include verifying the information received by an employee by using the following options.

Qualifications Check

The employer should take the time to follow up on any educational degrees claimed on the potential employee’s curriculum vitae. In addition, the employer should verify any certifications or licenses claimed with the agency identified as having conferred the same. This is essential where the safety of others is at risk and something our industrial lawyers can advise on.

Credit History

The employer can request permission to run a credit history check on the employee. This may be particularly necessary if the employee will be responsible for financial issues of the organisation.


This employee background check is useful for confirming an individual’s work history. While an employer cannot be certain that references are being truthful, it is always best to take the time to do a reference check by contacting the listed professional references of any prospective employee.

Getting to know a prospective employee

Lastly, it is extremely important that the employer take the proper amount of time to get to know the prospective employee. There are several ways to accomplish this, including:

  1. Initially interviewing the prospective employee over the telephone. Set aside a reasonable amount of time to discuss preliminary generic issues such as hours of availability, pay rate desired, benefits available and vacation/personal/sick time offered.
  2. Schedule an initial in-person interview with the prospective employee. This interview should allow for at least 30 minutes for the employer (who will have the most direct working relationship with the possible employee) to meet and discuss the basic requirements of the available position.
  3. A second interview should be scheduled with only the most suitable and qualified applicants. This interview should include at least one other current employee from either human resources or an employee who is higher up in the company. This interview should be allotted a greater duration and the specific issues of the job and the expectations should be reviewed in detail.

Once an employer has taken all of the above mentioned steps, hiring a new employee should become easier and the choice clearer. With the information gathered using these various options and sources, an employer can have a much greater understanding and knowledge of the person they are considering hiring. When an employer does a diligent review of those they are considering hiring, the chances for a good fit for all concerned, is significantly higher.

If you find yourself in need of assistance in determining the legal and proper way to investigate your prospective employees, please do not hesitate to contact the law offices of Owen Hodge. We are always happy to assist clients in understanding the full ramifications of any and all of your legal needs. Please feel free to call us at your earliest convenience to schedule a consultation for some valuable employment legal advice on 1800 770 780.

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