February 23rd, 2021 | Mark Sward

Background Screening Compliance in Canada: How Sterling Backcheck Supports Your Organization

Background screening is rife with compliance considerations. What information can you lawfully collect about a candidate? What do you tell the candidate if you make an adverse decision? What should your contract with your screening provider say? What new rules come up if you start screening candidates for work outside of Canada? While the answers to these questions will depend on your organization’s circumstances, one of the foundational issues you will need to address is the role of your screening provider in supporting your compliance efforts.

As a leader in the background screening industry in Canada, Sterling Backcheck takes pride in our commitment to compliance: developing and sharing in-house expertise, playing a leadership role in our industry association to drive balanced public policy, building practical tools to support our customers, and supporting candidates in exercising their rights.

In-House Expertise

Any organization operating in a regulated sector must have a clear view of its legal obligations and the framework that regulates its products and services. Sterling Backcheck has dedicated in-house Privacy and Compliance teams who play an oversight role in the entire life cycle of the background screening process,: from product and system design and development to service fulfillment and delivery. These teams—in Canada and around the world—closely follow developments in law, regulation, guidance, and best practice and share these learnings with Sterling Backcheck’s customers through online content, webinars, and direct meetings with our customers’ subject matter experts to ensure they have considered the relevant compliance considerations in developing their screening program.

Expertise in Action

Challenge: A customer of one of Sterling Backcheck’s sister companies in the United States recently approached Sterling Backcheck for support as they moved into the Canadian market. They had received outside legal advice around some restrictions around collecting and using criminal history information for screening in Canada, which alarmed them.

Solution: A member of Sterling Backcheck’s Privacy team met with them and put the legal advice in context, providing practical examples of how other organizations in Canada comply with Canadian privacy and human rights laws while mitigating hiring risks.

Industry Engagement

Not only do Sterling Backcheck’s subject matter experts serve as thought leaders within the organization and for our customers, but we also play a leadership role in our industry within the Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA). As participants in the PBSA’s global board and in the Canadian chapter, we engage directly with the people who make and enforce the policies that govern our services to drive positive, balanced rules that protect individual rights while not creating undue compliance burdens or limiting organizations’ ability to reasonably address their risks.

Industry Engagement in Action

Through the PBSA Canada Council’s Government Relations Committee, Sterling Backcheck representatives participated actively in a multi-year discussion with the Ontario government during the drafting of Bill 113, the Police Record Checks Reform Act of 2015, and its implementing regulations, ultimately resulting in a much-needed clarification allowing common-sense industry screening practices to continue without unnecessary delays and paperwork, which would have created extra hurdles for candidates and lengthened time to hire.

Compliance Support Tools

While every organization needs to design and assess its screening program around its own risk profile and legal obligations, screening providers can offer tools which help guide that assessment. Sterling Backcheck has produced webinars, whitepapers, checklists, and other tools to help guide our customers’ compliance efforts in Canada and abroad, many of which are available on- demand on our website. Additionally, we have privacy and compliance language in our service contracts which clearly set out roles and responsibilities and meet the requirements of Canadian, US and European laws that apply to background screening and processing of personal information. Finally, our internal teams can answer one-off questions to support the completion of privacy impact assessments, information security assessments, and other compliance review by our customers’ internal and external advisors.

Educating the Market

Sterling Backcheck’s “Legal Considerations for Background Screening in Canada” whitepaper and our “Background Screening Policy Considerations in Canada” checklist are invaluable tools to organizations looking to design or update a screening program. For those looking for a more detailed overview of compliance considerations in Canada and elsewhere can watch our on-demand webinars.

Candidate Support

One of the more challenging aspects of background screening is managing messaging to candidates about how screening works, why it is performed, and what happens when potentially adverse information is found. While again, each organization must manage its own messaging in accordance with its culture, values, and style, but Sterling Backcheck has developed various tools to help in this process. First, all candidate-facing notices in our systems are fully customizable, meaning no organization is stuck with boilerplate text which does not reflect its brand or the types of candidates it hires. Second, Sterling Backcheck’s sample privacy notices for US, Canadian and overseas hires are designed around the principles set out in privacy laws, are fully customizable to ensure our customers’ compliance requirements are met, and are proven to be effective in getting responses from third-party data sources. Third, Sterling Backcheck’s public privacy statement provides comprehensive details on what information is collected, how it is handled, and how to exercise data privacy rights. Finally, any candidate who wishes to access or dispute information in their background check report can contact Sterling Backcheck directly to exercise those rights—no intervention or work is needed on our customer’s part, unless special circumstances dictate a more hands-on approach. Our Candidate Support, Dispute Resolution and Privacy teams are highly trained and experienced in helping candidates understand the information in their report, how to address discrepancies, and turning a stressful experience into a positive one.

Candidate Support in Action

Challenge: A candidate had questions regarding the adverse information found on their report.

Solution: The candidate reached out to Sterling Backcheck. Sterling Backcheck’s support turned around this difficult conversation and helped support our customers’ onboarding and candidate experience goals. After interacting with our Privacy team, the candidate reached out to say that the Privacy team member she interacted with “was incredibly responsive to my numerous emails as a candidate, and was professional and courteous in answering my many questions regarding the background check process. Oftentimes [I received replies] within minutes. … I greatly appreciate [the] assistance with my issue and was very impressed with [the] professionalism and responsiveness throughout all of our correspondence.”

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.