If you are an employer you may wonder if you should conduct background checks before hiring someone. How should you respond if the background check comes back as not clear? Would you reject that applicant? What are your responsibilities?

What happens when you conduct a background check?

Most people who apply for a job with your company will come back with a “clear” result. In other words, they don’t have a criminal record. However, some applicants may come back with a “not clear” result. In other words, it’s complicated.

If the person comes back with a not clear result, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have a criminal record. Rarely, it could mean that they have the same name and date of birth as someone with a record. This could be a possibility if they have a common name.

In some cases non-conviction information can show up on a background check. In this case the applicant should make an application to purge it.

Usually, a not clear result will mean the person has a criminal record and has not received a pardon or Record Suspension. As an employer this can raise a red flag. Should you take a chance on this person or not? You could ask the person to get their fingerprints taken in order to get a more detailed record. Sometimes a person will withdraw their application if they are pressed for this kind of information. Others will want to discuss their record with you. They may want to explain the circumstances and why it does not relate to the job in question.

Benefits of hiring a person with a record

It’s definitely a good idea for you to discuss the record with the applicant. Everyone makes mistakes and a record doesn’t necessarily mean the person will be a bad employee. Some of the benefits of hiring a person with a record are:

  • You’ll be helping your community by giving someone a second chance
  • Studies have found that people with records are no more likely to be fired than people without records; plus, they are less likely to quit
  • By not hiring the person, you’ll lose out on the skills they can bring to the table. (After all, you called them for an interview for a reason, right?)

When should you consider hiring a person with a record?

Given that one in eight Canadians has a criminal record, you should always consider an applicant who has the skills you need. Other considerations include:

The relevance of the record to the job you have available: While it may make sense not to hire a bookkeeper who has been convicted of fraud and embezzlement, it may not make sense to reject a bookkeeper with a DUI.

The candidate’s references: In many cases people who are otherwise of good character make mistakes. This may be related to addiction, economic problems or relationships. Talk to references to get a full picture of the candidate’s competency.

The candidate’s explanation of what happened: Recidivism rates are very low in Canada. If the candidate is willing to face up to their mistakes and explain how they have moved on, taking a chance on them may not be as risky as you think.

The seriousness of the offence: Most records in Canada are not for serious offences. After talking to the candidate, you may determine that the charges do not pose a risk to your business.

The length of time since the offence: A person with an offence from 10 or 20 years ago is no more likely to reoffend than someone who has no criminal record.

One way to ensure that you are treating candidates fairly is to have a policy in place before the issue comes up. A good policy will ensure that people aren’t rejected for convictions that are not related to the job and that the relevant human rights legislation is followed. Human rights legislation varies by province and some employers are under federal jurisdiction. In most cases, you cannot discriminate against a person who has received a Record Suspension.

Record Suspensions

You may have employees now who have criminal records. Could these employees benefit from Record Suspensions? Some employers encourage their employees to get Record Suspensions because it makes them easier to insure.

When an employee gets a Record Suspension, it means the Parole Board of Canada has fully investigated the individual’s past. They’ve assessed whether or not the person is a high risk to offend. If your employee can qualify for a Record Suspension it may give you peace of mind. This can help an employee who has demonstrated talent to rise up the ranks in the company and take on more responsibility.

Often workers have not gone through the process of the Record Suspension because they find it costly and confusing. Talk to us if you think you would like to help your employee take advantage of the program.

US Entry Waivers

Many employers, especially in the transportation industry, need employees who can cross the border. If you work in trucking or the airline industry, you may have valued staff who are limited by an old conviction. Contact us for a consultation on how we can help.

In this day and age of frequent background checks and electronic information sharing, it’s harder than ever for people with criminal records to move forward from past mistakes. Employers can help by ensuring that everyone has a fair chance of making a new start.