Area of Law: Private Investigation
Answer Number: 980
Pre-employment screeningRegion: Ontario Answer Number: 980
What is pre-employment screening?
Pre-employment screening refers to the process of investigating the background of an individual for employment purposes. These types of inquiries are also commonly referred to as background checks.
Why is pre-employment screening done?
Pre-employment screening for job applicants, and sometimes even for existing employees is an important and necessary procedure for many employers.
This type of inquiry is most often conducted for the following three reasons:
1. To verify an applicant’s education and previous employment history.
An employer will verify an applicant’s education and previous employment history in order to assess the qualifications and suitability of an applicant for the position applied for.
2. To discover if the applicant will have the qualities that the employer is looking for, such as being punctual and able to communicate effectively.
3. To collect information about an applicant’s character to ensure they do not pose any risk to the employer, other employees, and the clients.
When is pre-employment screening done?
Extensive investigations are particularly important to those in situations dealing with financial and legal matters, or where the position applied for is one that requires high security or a high degree of trust, such as at a:
- hospital or other healthcare provider
- in-home services
- insurance company, bank or other financial business
- retail business
- telecommunications company
- police or government office
Pre-employment screenings are also often conducted for volunteer positions and for jobs working with vulnerable people, such as children, the elderly, and the disabled.
Are pre-employment screenings legal?
While pre-employment checks are allowed during the hiring process, employers must have a valid reason for conducting such inquiries. Therefore, somewhere in the application or conditional offer, the employer must clearly state that a successful background check is part of the selection process. That being said, most employers only need to confirm work experience with previous employers.
Before conducting a background check on any of their applicants, an employer should:
- Obtain the applicant’s written consent to conduct the various checks proposed,
- Tell the applicant which types of information the background check is focused on,
- Explain to the applicant why the employer requires this specific information, and
- Keep the information obtained from a background check confidential, regardless of whether the applicant is hired.
What information can pre-employment screening uncover?
Generally, any pre-employment inquiries should be limited to information relevant to job performance, and workplace safety and security issues. A private investigator will confirm various types of information that will be relevant to the position involved, including:
- address verification
- identity verification
- employment history
- education history
- credit history
- criminal record
- workplace safety breaches
- military background
- vehicle ownership and driving record
- professional licenses
- lawsuits and judgments
How does an investigator conduct pre-employment checks?
Pre-employment checks can involve conducting interviews and searching a number of records, such as:
- arrest records
- police records
- sex offender registry
- driver abstracts (history of driving record)
- college/university records
- credit searches
- reference checks
- Internet searches
- social media
A credit report is a common tool used, since it can identify individuals who may be in financial distress or expose a history of unreliable behaviour.
Under the Ontario Consumer Reporting Act, an employer can perform a credit check on an employee or prospective employee, but only if the information is to be used for employment purposes. Furthermore, employers are required to provide written notice to prospective employees that they will be conducting a credit check.
Criminal record verification
An employer will often conduct a police records check to discover if the applicant has a criminal record. In fact, a police records check is a legal requirement of many occupations and educational programs. In order to conduct a police records check, employers are required to first obtain the person’s written consent. In many cases, the employer will ask the applicant to obtain a police records check on their own. In such circumstances, the applicant will obtain the check from the local police service in the jurisdiction where they live, and submit the results with their application.
If the employment or volunteer position involves working with vulnerable people, such as children, a special check called a police vulnerable sector check is required.
Some organizations may also require an investigative report from a third-party agency, which may contain information on the applicant’s character, general reputation, personal characteristics or mode of living.
Information received from pre-employment screenings should remain confidential, and many organizations follow a policy that permits applicants to read, and if needed, dispute any apparent findings.
More information on privacy laws in the workplace can be found from both the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.
For legal advice or representation, contact a lawyer.
To have someone conduct a background check or pre-employment screening and for other investigation services, contact our preferred Investigators, Smith Investigation Agency .
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