Everything you need to know about Criminal Record Checks for Employment

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What is a criminal record background check, and why is it important?

Criminal record checking is a process that employers use to screen potential employees for criminal records, past convictions, and other information that could affect their suitability for a job. It is one of the most important types of background checks because it can help the employer find out if the potential employee has any criminal records or convictions. Other types of background checks provide information about an applicant's education, employment history, and credit history.

Some of the most common questions that are asked in a background check are:

  • Has the person committed any crimes?
  • What is their date of birth?
  • What is their current address?
  • What is their past employment history?
  • Do they have a social security number?

A criminal record is a list of the crimes committed by an individual. They are not a single event, but rather a pattern of offenses. Criminal records can be used for many reasons including hiring for specific roles, renting an apartment / house, or even for one’s own personal reasons. For instance, you might want to check someone’s criminal records before you become romantically involved with them. 


Conducting a comprehensive criminal background check helps you build a team you can trust, while also mitigating risk and protecting your company’s reputation. Using criminal record background checks during your hiring process helps you:

Reduce Liability Risks 

Doing a comprehensive criminal background check reduces your risk for negligent hiring claims. After all, you’ll be able to screen prospective employees who have history of violence, theft and embezzlement, physical and sexual abuse, as well as identity theft and gross misconduct, such as fraud. 

Furthermore, in some industries, criminal background checks for employment are mandatory. Conducting them means you comply with federal, state, local, and industry regulations.

Create a Safe Working Space

Since criminal background checks for employment allow you to identify any past violent or criminal behavior of potential employees, it helps protect the safety and well-being of existing employees, customers, and the workplace as a whole.

Maintain Your Organization’s Reputation

Employing someone with past criminal records can negatively impact your company’s brand image. This, in turn, can lead to a drop in customer trust, seriously affecting your business. Conducting a background check for criminal history helps maintain the integrity and trustworthiness of the workforce, which is crucial for public perception and customer confidence

Make Fair Hiring Decisions

Checking a prospective hire’s criminal history can help you make fair hiring decisions. However, employers should conduct criminal background checks for employment  consistently for all applicants, without any bias or discriminatory practices. 

Criminal Background Checks for Employment in Different Countries

In the UK, criminal record checks are also called “DBS Checks”, which stand for Disclosure and Barring Service checks. Employers may request a background check for criminal history for any role, but the level of check depends on the position. For instance, if the role is under the healthcare sector, that may warrant a more detailed criminal records background check. Here's more information on How DBS Checks Protect Vulnerable Adults.

US employers may be required to conduct a criminal records check for employment for certain roles. Candidates need to provide a written consent before employers can proceed with the check. 

In the Philippines, employers often ask for National Bureau of Investigation or NBI clearance. This record shows if the prospective hire had criminal cases tried in a Municipal, Metropolitan, or Regional Trial Court. Learn more about Background Checks in the Philippines here.


How does a criminal background check work in Singapore? The official criminal background check in Singapore is called the Certificate of Clearance. This can be obtained from the Singapore Police Force

In New Zealand, criminal background checks for employment can be obtained through The Ministry of Justice, but it’s not legal unless the candidate has provided their consent. Through this, employers can obtain a prospect's  criminal and traffic convictions and sentencing from court appearances. Employers can also conduct a criminal records background check through Police Vetting. Note that this service only provides information to Approved Agencies that provide care to children, older people and vulnerable members of society.

How Do Criminal Records and Background Checks Work?

Background checks can be done through a variety of sources. One of the most common sources is the public records database, which contains information about criminal activities or arrests. Employers may also check with the national sex offender registry to see if an applicant has been convicted of a crime against children.

Employers are legally allowed to check the criminal records of their potential employees. However, they cannot use this information to discriminate against applicants based on their race, gender, national origin, religion or disability.

Background checks can be done by employers for various reasons. They may want to know if a potential employee has any criminal records or has been convicted of a crime in the past few years. Background checks also include credit and driving history checks and are sometimes used as a condition for employment.


Who Can Access Criminal Records?

When it comes to criminal records, there are a lot of misconceptions. It is not just the police who can see the records. The records may also be available to employers, landlords and even schools. There is some confusion about what employers use for screening purposes, which is why we need more information about what they can access and how they use it to make hiring decisions. 

Employers can ask for a criminal background check, but not everyone has to disclose their criminal records. Employers are not required to ask about, verify or consider any information that is in the applicant's personal, medical or financial history. It is up to the employer when and how they decide what information from a criminal background check will be accessed and then be used.

Where Can You Usually Obtain a Criminal Background Check Report and What Information Does it Contain?

Criminal background checks for employment can be obtained from different sources, including from public databases, private databases, and other third parties. What the criminal background check shows may vary depending on what source it comes from and what type of report it is. 

What comes up on a criminal background check? The information on these reports typically consists of a criminal history report, which consists of the following: 

  • The individual’s name
  • Date of birth
  • Address
  • Social security number or other identification number
  • The individual’s convictions and/or charge
  • Possible aliases or nicknames used by the individual.


How Are Criminal Background Checks For Employment Conducted?

Criminal background checks for employment can be conducted in person, over the phone, or online. Before signing the employment contract or during the early stage of onboarding, they will have them fill out an application and then conduct a background check for criminal history to see if they have any convictions on their record.

The types of companies that need to conduct these checks vary from one employer to another. Some industries require these checks for all applicants while others only do it for certain positions.

Online Criminal Background Check System

Many countries now have an online system for criminal background checks for employment. In the Philippines, for instance, prospects may apply for NBI clearance online. Another option is through the NBI-Freedom of Information program where you may request for records. 

In the UK, criminal record checks may be applied online. Depending on the volume of requests, the government may be able to give the results within 12 hours.

The USA has various sites where you can simply input the details of the person whose criminal records you want to see. However, companies cannot use it as a basis for employment. Remember that you need the applicant’s written consent before conducting criminal background checks for employment. 

For more comprehensive online criminal record checks, these countries have an application that allows employers to search for a potential employee's criminal records. Third party background checking companies typically have access to this system. This application is used by many businesses across the world. The online criminal background check system can be used to find information about arrests, convictions, and other details of a person's past criminal history. 

Hence, a great option for employers is to partner with service providers, like Veremark. We can conduct criminal history checks online in compliance with all the relevant rules and regulations. Veremark ticks all the necessary boxes - from getting the prospective applicant’s consent to responsible data collection and presentation. Hence, you can receive a more comprehensive check online and faster. 

5 Important Things to Consider When Conducting Criminal Record Background Checks For Employment 

Here are five important things to consider before conducting a criminal record background check:

1. What type of criminal background search do you need?

While checking for all the criminal offenses for all open roles seems like the fair and proper thing to do, remember that some laws may only require you a certain level of inquiry. This is so discrimination may be avoided and the privacy of the person will be protected. 

Hence, it’s crucial that you determine which criminal background checks for employment are relevant for the role. For instance, a candidate applying as a company driver needs to disclose his or her traffic offenses. If the role will handle company or client finances, it’s worth looking into their history of theft or embezzlement. 

2. How long does it take for a criminal record review?

Depending on the extensiveness of what you want to review, criminal background checks for employment may take as little as half a day to a few business days. 

How long it takes to conduct a criminal history check will affect your hiring process, so it’s essential to get it done faster without compromising the integrity of the checks. To ensure faster turnaround time, it’ll be a good idea to partner with reliable service providers. 


3. What is the typical cost range for hiring a background checker?

The cost of hiring a background checker can vary depending on the depth and scope of the background check required, the provider chosen, and any additional services or searches requested. 

Veremark is highly scalable - whether you need one-off checks, or more frequent or bulk checks. You can partner with us regardless of how many employees you want to hire. In the Philippines, we can conduct criminal background checks for employment for as little as $32 per prospective hire. 

4. What is their process in getting the required criminal record information?

The process of getting the required criminal record information varies from one country to another. A common denominator is consent - it’s imperative that the applicant gives their permission to the data you’re collecting, using, and keeping. Criminal history checks must also comply with all the relevant laws and regulations, so as to protect your organization from liabilities such as discrimination claims.

When you partner with a service provider, the process typically involves providing your candidate’s details and your requirements. The service provider will then take care of everything.   

5. Would you actually know if someone has been convicted or not?

It may be possible to see a prospective hire’s conviction, but in most cases, only when it’s relevant to the position he or she is applying for. For instance, Basic DBS check only allows you to check for the person’s unspent convictions. If you’re allowed to conduct a standard check, that’s the only time you can see their spent convictions as well. 

How To Protect Your Company From Unwanted Employees Who Have Been Convicted of Crimes

The law is clear, employers can refuse to hire a potential employee if they have been convicted of a crime. The law is also clear that employers have no obligation to provide a job for people who have committed crimes. But it's not always easy for an employer to know whether or not a potential employee has been convicted of crimes, especially if they are applying for jobs online.

Employers need to be aware of how their hiring practices could affect themselves and other people who work with them. They also need to know how they can protect themselves from hiring someone with a criminal record.

Conclusion and Takeaways: Employer Rights when Hiring Employees with a Criminal History

Employers are allowed to ask about an applicant’s criminal history after they have been offered a job. Employers should be aware that federal law does not prohibit them from making hiring decisions based on the applicant’s criminal history.

The employer can refuse to hire the applicant based on the following:

  • If the employee has been convicted of a crime involving violence or theft
  • If the employer is prohibited by law from hiring someone with a certain type of conviction
  • If there is a risk that the employee will pose an unreasonable danger to themselves or others
  • If there is a risk that the employee will steal from their employer

But, remember, criminal background checks for employment must be conducted properly, otherwise you open your organisation up to liabilities that may even lead to litigations.

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What background check do I need?

This depends on the industry and type of role you are recruiting for. To determine whether you need reference checks, identity checks, bankruptcy checks, civil background checks, credit checks for employment or any of the other background checks we offer, chat to our team of dedicated account managers.

Why should employers check the background of potential employees?

Many industries have compliance-related employment check requirements. And even if your industry doesn’t, remember that your staff have access to assets and data that must be protected. When you employ a new staff member you need to be certain that they have the best interests of your business at heart. Carrying out comprehensive background checking helps mitigate risk and ensures a safer hiring decision.

How long do background checks take?

Again, this depends on the type of checks you need. Simple identity checks can be carried out in as little as a few hours but a worldwide criminal background check for instance might take several weeks. A simple pre-employment check package takes around a week. Our account managers are specialists and can provide detailed information into which checks you need and how long they will take.

Can you do a background check online?

All Veremark checks are carried out online and digitally. This eliminates the need to collect, store and manage paper documents and information making the process faster, more efficient and ensures complete safety of candidate data and documents.

What are the benefits of a background check?

In a competitive marketplace, making the right hiring decisions is key to the success of your company. Employment background checks enables you to understand more about your candidates before making crucial decisions which can have either beneficial or catastrophic effects on your business.

What does a background check show?

Background checks not only provide useful insights into a candidate’s work history, skills and education, but they can also offer richer detail into someone’s personality and character traits. This gives you a huge advantage when considering who to hire. Background checking also ensures that candidates are legally allowed to carry out certain roles, failed criminal and credit checks could prevent them from working with vulnerable people or in a financial function.

Transform your hiring process

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State of Hiring and Background Checks Discrepancies

Veremark’s 2022 Annual Report is based on the background check data collected from over 100,000 checks from companies and professionals across 6 countries and 5 key industries last year.

This report focuses on the state of hiring and background check discrepancies and is an essential guide to all recruiters and HR professionals conducting hires, background checks and onboarding in 2022.

In this report, we discuss:  

  • What areas and factors can Background Checks discover?  
  • Where did the findings come from by country and sector?
  • Discrepancies by top 5 sectors
    • Fintech and Financial Services      
    • HR, Staffing and Recruiting      
    • Technology and Software      
    • Professional Services      
    • Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)
  • Discrepancies by top 6 countries
    • Estonia      
    • Singapore      
    • United Kingdom      
    • Australia & New Zealand      
    • India      
    • Philippines
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