November 3rd, 2015 | Sterling

The Importance of a Background Check Policy: Part 2

The Importance of a Background Check Policy

If you conduct background checks, it’s important to have a documented background check policy. It serves many important purposes, like keeping your program consistent, maintaining transparency with your employees, preparing you to respond to privacy complaints, and helping avoid inadvertent human rights violations.

While large companies frequently have entire departments dedicated to ensuring activities in the organization are properly documented and vetted for compliance, many small- and medium-sized enterprises simply don’t have the resources at their disposal to create and maintain written policies. As a trusted partner in background checking, SterlingBackcheck has committed to providing solid best practices guidance to help our clients comply with the law and industry standards.

On November 19, I will be presenting a webinar: Background Check Policy 101, where I will share SterlingBackcheck’s sample background check policy for Canada. While every organization needs to develop a policy that fits its unique needs, we have designed this sample to be an insightful template to provide a framework for where to start and what information to include. A policy that is too vague (or, in some cases, too detailed), can cause more problems than it solves. This is meant to be guidance and any policy you develop as a result should always be reviewed by appropriate legal counsel before implementing.

Your background check policy in Canada must account for compliance with a number of external factors:

  • Collective agreements

    If you have a unionized workforce, your relationship with those workers may be regulated by a collective agreement. Many collective agreements have provisions regarding background checks. Make sure that your policy takes these provisions into account.

  • Privacy laws

    Not all employers in Canada are subject to privacy laws with regard to employee (and applicant) information, but many are. As a human resources professional, it’s important to understand which laws apply to you, and your background check policy must account for these laws and how your program complies with them. In some cases, you may need to have regional variations to account for differences in provincial laws.

  • Consumer reporting laws

    Background screening companies are regulated by provincial consumer reporting laws, and these laws have provisions that affect your organization, too. How you notify an applicant or employee for whom you will obtain a background check, and how you let them know if you are withdrawing an offer or taking other adverse action based on the background check, should be outlined in your policy and should comply with these laws.

  • Human rights laws

    Background checks may result in information being disclosed that is protected under a human rights law. Collecting this information is not necessarily illegal, but you need to tread carefully to ensure you limit any such collection, time it correctly and review and act on it with caution to ensure you respect your applicants’ and employees’ fundamental rights.

  • Internal policies

    You may have other corporate policies that affect how background checks are done (or that play a part in ensuring your background check policy is implemented properly). Your privacy policy, your employee handbook, and your data retention policy are just examples of these. When finalizing your background check policy, be sure to consult with other stakeholders to ensure your policy is in alignment with others.

These, along with the questions I raised in my blog post about background check policies earlier this year, are just some of the items to keep in mind as you develop your policy. I hope you will tune in to our webinar for a detailed presentation of our sample policy in its entirety.

This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.