Can My Employer Ask Me for a Background Check?

Employment laws concerning background checks are open to interpretation and this can cause a lot of uncertainty. To put it simply, employers can ask a job applicant to undergo a background check, but only if such sensitive information is relevant for the job requirements.

Let’s have a look at situations when employers are allowed to ask for a background check and what you need to do if you have a criminal record.

When can an employer ask for a background check?

In some countries, there are certain jobs for which background checks are mandated by law. This refers to jobs in healthcare, schools, police force or the legal system. Also, if you’re applying for a job that requires direct interaction with children or vulnerable people, you will also have to submit to a background check and obtain a special permit.

Make sure you look up the legal requirements for background checks in your specific area to learn more about how country, local, and regional laws might impact you.

Many businesses have started using background checks in recent years, even if they are not required by law.

However, employment laws stipulate that it is illegal for an employer to ask for a police check if having a record wouldn’t influence in any way your ability to do your job.

Let’s see what this means in practical terms.

For instance, if you’re applying for a position as an accountant or anything related to financial matters, an employer can ask you about your criminal record to make sure you were not convicted of theft, fraud or embezzlement. It is a quite reasonable concern so asking for a background check can not be seen as discriminatory.

Also, if you apply for a position as a driver, the employer might want to know if you’ve had any traffic related convictions. Once again, it is totally reasonable for them not to want to hire someone who has been convicted for drunk driving several times.

On the other hand, there are many jobs for which having or not having a criminal record is completely irrelevant. Take, for instance, a position in construction or maintenance. It is hard to imagine what sort of offense might be relevant for such a position.

Suggested Reading: 5 Legal Aspects to Consider When Posting on Social Media for Your Business

Do I have to disclose my criminal record?

This is a very tricky question precisely because the offenses on your record might not be relevant at all for the job requirements. In this case, the employer should not ask for a police check, and you shouldn’t have to talk about your past.

That’s only valid in theory, however. If you want that job, you should be honest about your record and explain the circumstances that led you to committing a criminal offense.

If you’re going for full disclosure, it is generally easier to order a background check on yourself, using an online service provider. One example of a service my workplace uses is the following site – for the ANCC service. These types of services are accredited and their results are valid so you can present the result of your police check to your potential employer.

This might seem a bit risky, but on the other hand such a move would show your employer you’ve got nothing to hide and you’re a brave person. This alone could help you get passed the delicate issue of the criminal record and land you the desired job.

Also, keep in mind that if the employer refuses your application without just cause, you can sue them.

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Daniel Ailonso
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