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Mandatory Criminal Record Checks

  Sarah Baldeo


What if it was impossible to get a job unless you agreed to a criminal record check? Most HR professionals would, if asked, say that they would prefer NOT to hire ex-convicts – but when pressed, the feedback is almost always, “well it depends on what they were convicted of.” This is a fair response – not all criminal offences are equally heinous. Hiring someone who had a DUI 20 years ago is entirely different from hiring someone guilty of aggravated assault.

These questions raise a broader, perhaps more philosophical issue – do we believe people change? Indeed, the forum for that discussion is not this short opinion piece – but it does raise an interesting point. Criminal checks are not mandatory – yet the consensus among employers is that they would never choose to hire criminals. From a legislative perspective – it certainly is a fair expectation for an employer to have an employee disclose whether they have a criminal record. However, simply asking if someone has a criminal record in no way ensures that they do not have a criminal history.

If we consider the view of the Human Rights Commission – it is the responsibility of an employer to provide fair and equitable access to individuals with disabilities and special needs. When we consider services that advocate for ex-convict reintegration to society – would creating legislation to make criminal background checks mandatory be a violation of human rights? Would we be alienating individuals with less than stellar pasts, but fantastic futures ahead of them?

Conversely, making criminal checks mandatory would eliminate a great deal of the risk that is seldom discussed, but entirely present, in hiring. Hiring is entirely a gamble, and the investment of resources in recruitment is a much-discussed topic. Indeed, having a clear criminal record is not enough to ensure that an individual is a right fit for a company – but then criminal checks were never designed to eliminate other hiring practices – but rather to augment them.

It is an interesting thought – a future where hiring becomes an exercise of full disclosure.

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