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Should I Conduct a Background Check for Recruitment Purposes?
March 14, 2019
Should I Conduct a Background Check for Recruitment Purposes?

Background checks often form part of the recruitment process. 57% of employers say that they conduct background checks as they result in a better quality of hire. In addition, 77% of employers say background screening uncovered issues that wouldn’t have been caught in the rest of the hiring process. As the hiring manager, you want to ensure that your recruitment process results in the best quality candidate for the job. So, should you conduct a background check as part of your hiring process?

Many employers feel that they are entitled to search for any information they desire about a candidate. However, in Canada, there are some legal issues that surround background checks that you should be aware of before you get started.

What is a background check?

The primary goal of a background check is to verify information that has been provided to the employer is correct. This may include basic information such as your education and employment history. An employer may want to also find out if there are any areas of concern that may affect your job performance.

There are several types of background check including:

  • Criminal background check
  • Identity checks
  • Educational history
  • Drug & health screening
  • Candidate experience
  • Global screening
  • Reference checks
  • Internet and media presence searches

It’s important to understand that not all of these may be legal to conduct in Canada.

Is it Legal to Conduct a Background Check in Canada?

When it comes to the legality of background checks in Canada, the largest focus is on the protection of privacy, Both the Federal Privacy Act and Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act are laws regulating what is permissible regarding background checks done within the public sector.

In jobs like banking or telecommunications, background checks are regulated by the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). However, in private sectors employee information is not always subject to privacy laws.

Best practices recommend that employers should be collecting information that is relevant and in good faith regardless of privacy laws or not.

Unlike their neighbours in the USA, Canada is not able to test for drug and alcohol use unless they deem it to be important for safety. It is advisable to seek legal counsel prior to implementing drug testing in the workplace for employees or in recruitment processes

Another factor to consider when conducting these background checks is whether they could be off-putting to potential candidates. Even if they do not have any skeletons in their closet, a candidate may not feel comfortable with extensive background checks if they deem them unnecessary.

Prevent recruitment discrimination resulting from background checks

In some cases, background checks can reveal information about a candidate’s age, race, citizenship and religion. These factors, among others, cannot be used to determine suitability for a job position as they are prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Human Rights Code. If the employer becomes aware of this information, it makes room for decision biases in hiring. Therefore, it is important to ensure that all applicants will undergo the same treatment. Using a third-party to conduct the background check may be beneficial so they can just provide you with just the information you need to know to perform your due diligence.  

What should you do when performing a background check?

Prior to conducting the background checks, you should first analyze what information is necessary to check to conduct appropriate due diligence. Positions dealing with vulnerable sectors with have a more extensive background check than other positions for example. Identify the level of background check needed to be comfortable with your hiring choice.

In addition, you should:

  • Ask for consent from the candidate before conducting a background check. Be honest about the information that you will be looking to collect and ensure they understand how you are going to acquire that information.
  • Only conduct background checks to seek information relevant to the job position
  • Only use the information for the purpose it was intended to be used for
  • Properly store and protect the information  to ensure that it is only accessible to those who it is relevant to
  • Make the information you collect available to the candidate or employee
  • Destroy the information once it is no longer needed

If you require assistance in any area of your recruitment process, contact Essential HR today to see how we can help!

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