Police checks for jobs in Australia: Are they legal?

Police checks are used by some employers as part of the hiring process, but what are they used for, and is it legal to discriminate against potential employees on this basis?

This article will look at these questions and discuss the differences between an Australian Federal Police Check and a National Police Check provided by ACIC-accredited organisations.

How many jobs require police checks?

At a glance, searching for jobs containing ‘police check’ and associated terms in Jora reveal that ~6% of jobs require the jobseeker to provide a police check.

Upon further examination and breaking down the job postings into specific industry categories, the percentages are:

However, this isn’t exactly a true reflection of what industries and jobs might require a police check of their prospective employees and is probably understated.

What these initial numbers are capturing are the jobs posted that require the applicant to obtain a police check by themselves and provide it to their potential employer as part of the application process. What’s excluded is an understanding of the industries in which employers might require a police check but the onus is on the company to provide this service, as is often the case for employers in Banking & Financial Services.

Why do certain jobs require a police check?

When recruiting for a job, the employer wants to ensure they get to know as much as they can about prospective employees. This is not only to ensure they employ the best possible candidate for the job, but to make sure the decision they are making is well-informed.

It is in the interest of an employer to ensure that they mitigate risks such as employee misconduct, damages, mishaps or injuries caused by employees. An employer can be held liable should employee misconduct occur and they neglected to investigate employee criminal history when they should have.

If you have a criminal history, how does this affect you?

You might assume that if you have a criminal record, and you are applying for a job that requires a police check, there might be a chance you will be discriminated against due to your historical police information.

However, in Australia it is illegal to discriminate against someone applying for a job based on their criminal record, unless that criminal record directly relates and/or is relevant to the job. The responsibility of deciding what is deemed ‘relevant’ is at the discretion of the employer.

If you think you might have been discriminated against due to your criminal record, you can lodge a complaint with the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.

Are there different types of police checks in Australia?

The police check you need for one type of job could be different from one you need for another. We recommend checking with the employer what type of certificate is required before obtaining one, as you do not want to pay for a police check service only to find out you need a different one.

  1. National Police Check

A National Police Check is provided through the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) through accredited agencies. This police check checks an applicant’s name against a national Persons of Interest database. Companies who provide this check, access this database through ACIC.

  1. Australian Federal Police Check

An Australian Federal Police (AFP) Check, is slightly different. The AFP can only provide National Police Checks for certain reasons. To find out more information in regards to this, check out the guidelines on the AFP website here.

How do you get a police check?

Obtaining a national police check in Australia is relatively easy.

In the past, the main way in which someone could obtain a police check was to go directly to the local police station. Generally, this process was slow and inefficient, and would often take longer than 14 days to obtain.

Nowadays, it’s different. You can easily obtain a national police check online and there are a variety of online police check organisations that are accredited with ACIC to do so. ACIC accreditation requires strict security standards and means that your information should be safer than most other websites.

If you are planning on applying for jobs in categories that have a high likelihood of requiring a police check, perhaps you could benefit from getting one beforehand. Regardless, an online police check is the quickest way to obtain your police check.

To obtain a national police check for most purposes of employment, try using Certsy.