How long is an Australian police check valid for?

Human resources managers are walking a tightrope when it comes to conducting background checks on prospective employees. On the one hand, they need to put the interest of the company first and make sure they don’t hire dangerous persons, but on the other hand, they cannot infringe on the candidates’ rights.


Validity of a background check

There are cases when a job applicant brings along a national police check, sometimes a few months or maybe even more than one year old. Should the HR department accept such a document?

This is a very delicate situation as there is no rule saying that a police check is no longer valid after a certain time. According to Australian law, the results on Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Checks have no expiry date.

However, employers need to be aware that a police check is a point-in-time check and it reflects the situation at the moment it was performed. A background check performed one month ago can tell you if the applicant had any convictions or criminal charges at that moment.  Every Human Resources department has to put in place a policy regarding background checks and decide how old a document are they willing to accept.

If the document has been issued a couple of weeks ago, chances are the candidate has not committed a crime in such a short time. People order criminal history checks from all states and territories of Australia. In Sydney, NSW, thousands of checks are ordered every day. If we’re talking about an individual police check conducted six months or one year ago, the HR needs to decide if they’re willing to take the risk.


Continuous background checks

Many businesses routinely conduct a background check at the time they hire an individual, put the document in that person’s file and forget about it. What happens if an employee gets in trouble with the law after that moment? Drunk driving charges? Domestic abuse? Harassment?

Many things can change in a person’s life in a couple of years. This is a big problem especially for large companies with hundreds of employees. It’s very hard to keep track of how everyone is doing, so the human resources department might be completely in the dark about the particular situation of an employee who finds himself in trouble.

One solution to make sure this does not happen to your company is to run a continuous background check program.

That’s very easy to do, and it needn’t be a bother for the employees. Make it a routine operation and use an online government accredited agency.  The HR department already has the employees ID so it can order a quick online check to make sure the employee has not run into any sort of trouble. The results come back in a couple of days and if everything’s fine the document will go into the employee’s file. Obviously, if the employee has pending charges against him or has committed a criminal offence it is the HR’s job to decide if it constitutes grounds for dismissal.

Human resources need to keep in mind that the employee must give his written consent before such a check can be performed. To prevent any possible discrimination claims, the company should have a clear strategy detailing at what interval police background checks are to be performed and make sure the same rule applies for all employees at the various levels in the organization.


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