Background Checks for Current Employees: How to Do It Right

Introducing regular, ongoing background screening of your employees can be a daunting prospect. As an employer or HR practitioner, you might be wondering "What if my employee refuses a background check? How do I know which employees to check? How often should screening occur?"

Regulatory and contractual requirements dictate how often background checks are conducted in some industry segments, but where rescreening is not mandatory, companies must choose their own path when making decisions about rolling checks on employees.

For companies that get it right, continuous background screening is a valuable tool in protecting against liability and maintaining a safe working environment. Approached the right way, screening embedded in your workplace culture can form a seamless part of your talent acquisition, recruitment, and retention processes. When conducted at regular intervals throughout the employment lifecycle, background checks not only help manage risk and compliance but also frees up your team to focus on high-value tasks rather than tedious admin.

Here we look at what it takes to implement best practice rescreening processes that are tailored to your business and relevant to the individual roles of your employees.

Update your background check policy 

Your company's written screening policy must be updated to inform new job candidates and current employees of your plans to introduce rolling checks. Consent is always required for a background check, no matter whether it is conducted at hire or during employment.

The consent form must make it clear that you are requesting authorisation for screening. If you are using a screening check provider, this consent process should be included as part of the automated workflow.

Communicate changes to employees

Employees may not be familiar with the idea of post-hire screenings, so the more you communicate the details, the smoother the process is for them. Be clear that the check process will be fair and consistent for all employees. Provide guidance in your background check policy about the type of check being conducted (which will depend on the inherent requirements of the role - see below) and how much warning is given before the screening is carried out.

Also explain what situations will automatically trigger a background check, such as a promotion, unusual behaviour, or when an employee takes on new responsibilities.  

When an employee refuses to consent to a background check, it can be helpful to have policies or procedures in place to deal with the issue. The more transparent you are with your employees about why checks are needed, the less anxious they might feel. It could be useful to have a discussion with them about how it will benefit the organisation and help keep the working environment safe and secure for all employees, stakeholders, and customers.

Identify inherent requirements

When trying to determine what background checks are necessary for different job roles, the first step is to work out the inherent requirements of each position. Take each job in your organisation and list out its critical tasks, its responsibilities, and the circumstances in which the role is carried out.

Next, plot this information on a risk assessment curve. Where the roles sit on the curve is determined by its inherent requirements and the risks of each position. For example, if the job involves one-on-one conduct with vulnerable people or direct responsibility for significant assets, its higher risk would place it under the mandatory Criminal History screening section of the curve.

For each position shown as a higher risk, you may simplify the vetting process with a check matrix. Add options to the check matrix to account for specific situations. For example, if a candidate has lived and worked overseas, an International Criminal History check might be more valuable.

The advantage of assessing risk this way is that it provides an objective approach to whether a background check is genuinely relevant to the core function of the job. Once you know the inherent requirements of each role, you can then include these in the selection criteria when hiring a new candidate or transferring employees to new positions. This transparency avoids any misunderstandings down the track when conducting rolling screening.

Deal with negative information case by case

Never make a blanket assumption that when negative information turns up from a background check, your employee is no longer capable of doing their job

If a criminal background check shows up a Disclosable Court Outcome (DCO), this indicates your employee has had an interaction with the police. There is a long list of reasons DCOs are given out, ranging from a conviction for a serious offence to an unpaid fine that has landed the employee in court.

Before making any decisions about what to do with the negative information, allow your employee to explain why the criminal record exists, and to challenge it if required. An open, transparent discussion will place some context around their behaviour, which will help you decide whether their criminal record is a threat in your workplace. Consider whether the offence was a once-off and what their behaviour has been like during the period they have worked for you. You could also give your employees the chance to tell you about an issue before it is discovered by screening.

There are some occupations, such as lawyers and financial brokers, where it is a clear-cut decision that a DCO disqualifies them from the role. But for other professions, issues like discrimination and fairness must be considered. For example, if a police check reveals that an employee has a theft conviction, they may not be suitable for a role that has any direct responsibility for finance. On the other hand, a traffic conviction may not preclude them from continuing in that same position unless there was a driving requirement.

The best guide to the assessment of DCOs is to be well prepared and know your anti-discrimination and privacy obligations, especially when dealing with information relating to a person's criminal record. Adopt a reasonable and common-sense approach to evaluation by deciding what, if any, DCOs are unacceptable for each role.

Find out more tips and strategies for introducing rolling background checks into your workplace with our free ebook: Understanding Background Screening in the Business.

Transform your background screening using fit2work's easy online platform that streamlines all your risk management processes. Manage all your screening checks from a single place, choosing from a vast range of single checks or bundled report packages. Our platform reduces manual work and provides support across the entire employee lifecycle. Contact us for an obligation-free demonstration on 1300 525 525 or


Useful reading: It's time for HR to ditch their 'set and forget' approach to background screening

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