How Businesses in Australia Can Make an Effective Employment Screening Policy


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Employment screening is one of the first steps towards building a competent and productive workforce. In an era where employment fraud is common, verifying the information that job candidates supply on their résumés and job applications helps to assure employers that prospective employees are indeed who they say they are and have the skills and experience they claim to have.

The importance of an effective employment screening policy for both permanent and temporary staff cannot be overemphasized. Such a policy enables businesses to avoid hiring incompetent workers and eliminate the risk of high turnover as well as other hiring and organizational risks. A good screening policy will also, in effect, influence the implementation of good HR policies. Of course, any sort of screening must be conducted within the set boundaries of Australian laws, but the advantages of the policy remain endless.

Building an effective employment screening policy takes time, planning, and diligence. Plus, there are factors a business must take into account when installing such a policy. Here are four important things to consider in developing an effective screening policy for your business in Australia.

How the screening policy should be constructed

The processes that make up a business’ employment screening policy need to be as simple, easy, and fast to complete as possible. Having arduous or too many unnecessary requirements can discourage applicants and puts a business at risk of losing candidates that could have been vital additions to the company.

Nevertheless, no matter how standardized or streamlined its processes are designed, for a screening policy to be effective, it must thoroughly consider and manage all hiring and organizational risks. For instance, hiring into a high-level role in a business may need not only identity verification but also bankruptcy and police checks. It may also prove beneficial to employ the services of an external screening agency to conduct comprehensive checks for important positions.

What the screening policy should entail

Education and skill verification

This is a routine aspect of any Australian employee background check. Verifying candidates’ educational records and skillsets is often easy; most times, a sealed transcript, a letter, or any form of contact with schools, universities, or institutions listed in an application takes care of this. However, this kind of verification might be a little more complicated and require more investigation if an applicant claims to have qualifications from a foreign or now-defunct institution.

Certain jobs require specific levels of digital literacy and the ability to communicate and gain access to information through digital means or even more advanced technological expertise. Appropriate assessments would need to be put in place to ensure prospective employees that need to have these particular skill sets do possess them.

Reference checks

This involves employment background checks, including references from past employers, investigating reasons why applicants left their past jobs, and employee track records. Seeking this sort of information is legal in Australia and is even advised to be made routine whenever a business is hiring.

How Businesses in Australia Can Make an Effective Employment Screening Policy - Group Photos People Hiring Process
Image: Andrey Popov / Adobe Stock

Medical screening

If a job requires a specific level of health or physical ability, applicants can be required to undergo medical screening. In Australia, this is also very much within lawful bounds. However, discrimination of candidates based on medical reports is illegal. Thus, it is advisable that medical screening only be requested where absolutely necessary.

Criminal background check

Criminal history checks and police checks play key roles in the screening of prospective employees for certain jobs. For instance, if a company is hiring an official driver, requesting their driving record and police clearance from an accredited online service like ANCC of any traffic-related offenses is within reasonable bounds. Other types of criminal background checks or police clearance include drug testing, credit history screening, sex offender registry screening, and more.

Checking the criminal records of prospective employees has often helped to protect companies in negligent hiring lawsuits. However, there are legal limits over how exactly information obtained from criminal records can be used when evaluating job candidates.

Staying within lawful limits

A business must do its due diligence to ensure no laws are being broken or civil rights are being infringed upon when soliciting information from prospective employees. Especially in the cases of medical screening and criminal history checks, to avoid getting too invasive or breaking any privacy restrictions or anti-discrimination laws, it is best that a business verify what is within lawful limits and what isn’t before making these requirements mandatory.

If an employer is unable to ascertain these limits on their own, then the next best thing would be to hire a neutral and authorized third party to conduct any screening exercises. This will reduce the overall risks involved in the process.

Who does the screening

Part of what affects the effectiveness of employment screening is who conducts it. The parties facilitating any type of screening for potential employees must be impartial and unbiased. If any form of bias infiltrates into a hiring process, it generates the risk of the wrong people for the job getting employed.

Any outsourced screening responsibilities should only be placed in the hands of certified professionals, especially for medical screening and criminal history checks. The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) has a number of accredited organizations from which Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Checks for prospective employees can be obtained. The commission has done this to safeguard lawfulness and the rights of the Australian community.

Where the screening takes place

Many businesses prefer, and it is indeed advisable to use an online tool for screening. However, for more sensitive positions, or if a secure online platform is unavailable, in-person screening can also be employed.

Photo credit: The feature image has been done by Prostock Studio. The photo in the body of the article was taken by Andrey Popov.
References: Australian Government (Equal Opportunity and Diversity) / Conducting other pre-employment screening checks

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