Running Criminal Background Checks on Prospective Employees

by Thom Tracy

2 min read

Running criminal background checks on prospective hires protects your company from bringing someone on board who might pose a security risk to your organization. It is important to strike a balance between protecting your company and protecting the candidate in question. The Canadian Human Rights Code makes it illegal to use criminal background checks on an arbitrary basis to promote discrimination in your hiring practices. Understanding the law and having a defined policy in place for background checks ensures your organization stays within the parameters of the law while minimizing the chances of a bad hire.

Why Run Criminal Background Checks?

As a business owner and employer, you have a responsibility to protect your company’s assets and workers from wrongdoing by unscrupulous employees. Criminal background checks offer a measure of protection to keep your business safe and secure.

When you run a background check on a prospective employee, it’ll come back as clear or not clear. Clear means no criminal background was found, and you’re probably safe moving forward with the hiring process. Not clear means the applicant might have a criminal past. A result of not clear means you need to dig deeper to determine several pieces of information. How severe was the crime? How long ago did it happen? And how does it impact the person’s ability to do their job?

Moreover, criminal background checks test for honesty. Maybe an applicant has a past conviction that isn’t severe and wouldn’t be disqualifying, but they didn’t disclose it when applying for the job and claimed they had a clean background.

Human Rights Code Compliance

The Human Rights Code governs how Canadian businesses can use criminal background checks to screen applicants. While its specifics vary by province, its most important provision is a requirement of uniformity in the screening process. For example, if two candidates apply for the same job and both have previous trespassing convictions, you cannot decline one based on criminal background and hire the other.

Certain provinces, such as British Columbia and Newfoundland, prohibit companies from declining candidates for offences that don’t relate to the job at hand. For example, a single drunk driving conviction may be grounds for denial if the job requires operating company vehicles, but not if it’s an office job.

Finding the Best Candidates

Don’t let good employees slip through the cracks for offences that ultimately don’t matter. Take a more holistic approach to background checks. Rather than making them overly severe, consider leaving yourself more room for judgment when it comes to minor transgressions. For example, do you really want to miss out on a sales superstar over a university prank that happened more than a decade ago?

Keep in mind that you’re required to apply background checks uniformly. Therefore, if you have a defined policy in place to deny candidates for certain convictions, you can’t make exceptions for candidates that you favour.

References & Resources

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