Do Canadian employers do background checks?

The job application process comes in stages. One of the most important stages is background checks. It’s when the employer tries to find more information about the applicants. So, do Canadian employers do background checks?

Yes, most Canadian employees will carry out background checks on applicants. These checks can be on criminal records, credit records, employment references, social media, or education and qualifications. While it’s important, there are laws on conducting checks and things employers must consider.

Background checks are necessary to verify certain information about the applicants. But it’s important to conduct it following the laws to avoid any liability. This article explains all you need to know about background checks.

What is a Background Check?

An employee background check is a process of confirming an applicant’s identity. The potential employer seeks to verify applicants’ personal information at this point. It ensures that the employer chooses the right person for the role.

Types of Background Checks

Background checks in Canada are generally standard. They can be of various types, which are:

1.   Criminal Records

Screening applicants’ criminal records aren’t always necessary when determining who to employ. It only becomes reasonable where the employee will occupy a sensitive position. For example, positions where the employee will be dealing with vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly, or the disabled. Thus, any employer asking for criminal records must provide a valid reason for doing so. The employer also needs the express written consent of the applicant or employee.

There are three types of Criminal Records check. They are:

  • Criminal Records Check: This focuses on all summary and criminal convictions.
  • Police Information Check: This focuses on convictions, discharges, and outstanding charges.
  • Vulnerable Sectors Check: his check includes the other two above and sexual offences convictions. It’s for child and elderly care sectors where the law requires checks.

In conducting checks, the employer must make sure it’s not discriminatory. This means you can’t single one applicant or group of applicants for the check. Also, the presence of a conviction shouldn’t be a reason for discriminating against the applicant unless such conviction will directly affect their ability to do the job.

2.   Credit Records

This is another discretionary background check. It can only be done where the employee’s role offers an opportunity for theft or fraud. Roles such as accountants, bank employees, cashiers, etc., add to this category. The employer must give written notice to the applicant before conducting the test. Since a credit check will reveal the person’s age, there must be a conditional offer of employment before conducting the check. But employers can refuse applicants because of credit checks.

3.   Education and Qualifications

This is important when employing a person as it proves that the person can do the job. There are no laws restricting employers from background checks to confirm applicants’ educational records and qualifications. But such checks may reveal other personal information, nationality or age. So, they have to be careful not to discriminate against an applicant.

4.   Employment Reference

Canadian employers also conduct background checks to verify employment references. The essence is to confirm the applicant worked where they claimed to have worked, for the duration, and had the responsibilities. Reference checks also give an insight into applicant work ethics, ability, and character.

Although no law prevents employers from contacting references, it’s best to use standard questions. This way, there won’t be any discrimination or bias against the applicants.

5.   Social Media

It’s legal for employers in Canada to carry out a background check of the applicable social media. Doing this might offer valuable information to the employer. This can be at any point in the recruitment process.

When can Canadian Employers Conduct Background Checks?

Generally, the employer can carry out all background checks after offering conditional employment.

Law Guiding Background Checks in Canada?

Even though employer background checks are legal in Canada, rules regulate them. Laws exist to protect the usually sensitive data collected during pre-employment screening. Employers have to store the data appropriately and handle it appropriately. The federal privacy act and Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act cover this data’s storage, handling, and usage.

The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act will also apply to employers regulated by the federal government.

Considerations for Employers doing Background Checks

Given the nature of background checks and risks of improper use of data, there are things every employer must consider.

1.   Reasonability

When it comes to background checks, employers must be reasonable in the data they collect. Good faith is essential, and background checks should stick to relevant information. The employer shouldn’t ask anything that’s not necessary to determine whether the applicant can perform the role.

2.   Anti-discrimination Laws

Another thing to be aware of is not discriminating while conducting background checks. This is illegal and could lead to costly civil litigation. It’s illegal to ask applicants personal questions such as age, ethnicity, sex, and other personal information. Employers can’t reject an applicant because of a summary (minor) offence or criminal offence if they have received a pardon.

Since most background checks will reveal personal and protected information, employers should offer conditional employment before background checks on applicants. This reduces the risk of discrimination as rejection will be because of failing background checks.

3.   Use of Information

Any information from the pre-employment screening can only serve that purpose. Anything outside that purpose is illegal. The potential employees must also be aware of all the data collected.

4.   Storage

In a world where data is very valuable, the employer has an extra responsibility to protect the data of applicants. It’s necessary to store anything obtained through background checks appropriately. Breach of such information might make the employer liable even if it wasn’t deliberate.

Once the application process is complete, the background checks data has served its purpose. There’s no need for the employer to keep the data again. So, deleting or destroying the data is the next logical step.

In Conclusion

Canadian employers do background checks because cover letters and CVs rarely give enough information. But some laws regulate background checks, and employers should stay within the confines of these laws to avoid liability.

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