In the current scenario, employee background checks are becoming more important than ever before. We’ll take you through what all a Canadian background check entails and the legal requirements for each of them.

What is an Employee Background Check?

An employee background check, also known as a pre-employment screening, is a process where an employer checks to ensure that a person is who they claim to be. It provides an employer with the opportunity to check an employee’s criminal record, employment history, education, and any other relevant activities. In Canada, employee background checks are standard, with many Canadian employers viewing it as a critical means to confirm identity. 

Why would I want to do a Pre-Employment Screening? 

Canadian employee background checks are an important stage in the recruitment process for employers. This is because it ensures employers are selecting individuals that will appropriately fill roles and boosts their company.

What Types of Employee Background Checks Should Be Conducted? 

There are 7 pre-employment screening tests that should be conducted, and they are:

Canadian Employee Background Checks on Criminal Records

Criminal records or criminal background checks are not always necessary when considering employing an applicant. Criminal background checks are generally only reasonable when employees will be working in positions that require tests, such as, dealing with vulnerable groups like children, the elderly, or disabled individuals. As such, if an employer is requesting a criminal background check, they need to give a genuine reason for requiring the search. Additionally, they must gain express written consent from the employee or applicant for conducting this test.

Employers can conduct three different types of criminal background checks:

  • Criminal Record Checks (CRC)
    • This screening brings up summary and criminal convictions 
  • Vulnerable Sector Checks (VSC)
    • These are the most comprehensive check that can be conducted
    • This check performs all the checks that CRCs and PICs conducts and also includes any sexual offense convictions an applicant or employee may have 
    • Sectors such as elder or child care required by law, for this check to be conducted
  • Police Information Checks (PIC)
    • This screening brings up convictions, as well as discharged and outstanding charges

When employers are conducting criminal background checks, they should ensure that they are not being discriminatory, this means, they cannot single out a particular applicant or group of candidates for this check. If they do so, that will be illegal. Employers can also not discriminate against someone because they have a conviction unless they can show that that conviction directly affects their ability to perform the job in question. 

Canadian Employee Background Checks on Credit RecordsCanadian Employee Background Checks on Credit Records

A credit record check is only required where an employee’s role would give them the opportunity to commit fraud or theft. Some roles that fit within this category are accountants or bank employees. Employers are allowed to refuse applicants on the basis of a credit check, however, they must note that they need to give written notice to an applicant prior to conducting the check. Further, because this check requires knowing the applicant’s age, this check cannot be performed until a conditional offer of employment has been given to the applicant. 

Canadian Employee Background Checks on Education and Qualifications

Education and qualifications checks are a crucial part of confirming an applicant’s ability to execute a role successfully and effectively. There are no direct legal restrictions preventing employers from carrying out checks to confirm an applicant’s transcripts or qualifications with an educational institution. Employers must take note, however, that contacting schools to confirm an applicant’s attendance, may reveal a candidate’s personal information, such as their date of birth or nationality. As such, employers should be careful not to discriminate against an applicant in the case that such information is uncovered.

Canadian Employee Background Checks on Employment Reference Checks

Employment reference checks help employers confirm that an applicant has worked where they said, for as long as they said, and with the responsibilities specified. it also allows employers to learn about an applicant’s character and working ability from their previous employer. Although there are no restrictions on contacting references throughout the hiring process, employers should try and have a standard set of questions to ask previous employers to ensure that there is no bias or discrimination against an applicant.

Canadian Employee Social Media Background Checks

Social Media Background checks can provide useful information for an employer and are legal under Canadian law. This check can generally be carried out at any point during the recruitment process.

Canadian Employee Background Checks on Social Media

Canadian Employee Background Checks on Driving Records

A driving record background check is only a genuine requirement where a candidate will need to be driving in some way, some sales positions may also reasonably require a driving record check. To conduct this screening, employers need the applicant’s name, driver’s license number, and address. 

Canadian Employee Background Checks on Drugs and Alcohol

Drug and alcohol testing is a form of medical screening. Medical screenings can only be conducted following a written conditional offer of employment. To conduct this background check employers must be able to show that it is necessary for the role the applicant is applying for.

On the other hand, fingerprinting is a very uncommon practice in Canada and is generally only ever used if it is in relation to a criminal background check. Collecting this information is a serious invasion of privacy and should only be done when absolutely necessary. 

When Can a Canadian Employee Background Check Be Conducted? 

Generally, employers can only carry out employee background checks after an applicant has been offered a conditional offer of employment. 

Are Canadian Employee Background Checks Legal? 

Pre-employment screenings collect a substantial amount of personal data from the employee as such, there are rules in place to snare that the employer stores this employee data appropriately. The employer must make sure they understand what information can be collected and how it should be handled when they do collect it. Employee background checks are covered by the Federal Privacy Act and the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. If an employer is a federally regulated body they are governed by the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. 

When conducting a pre-employment screening there are 5 main considerations that employers must take into account. They are as follows:

Reasonability and Canadian Employee Background Checks

Employers must also be reasonable and conduct employee background checks in good faith. As such, the information collected should be relevant and necessary for determining whether the applicant is able to perform the role they apply for. For example, if an applicant will not be driving for your business you do not need to conduct a driver’s background check. 

Anti-Discrimination and Canadian Employee Background Checks

Employers must also not discriminate while conducting pre-employment screenings as this is illegal. It is also illegal for employers to ask applicants about their ethnicity, sex, age, or other human rights-protected information during the recruitment process. Employers should also note that they are prohibited from refusing an applicant on the basis of a minor offense (summary offense) such as a driving-related conviction. Employers can also not refuse applicants on the basis of a criminal offense if they have received a pardon. 

As some background checks can result in an employer discovering this protected information about an applicant, employers are advised to make a conditional offer of employment prior to conducting a background check in order to reduce the possibility of discriminating against an applicant. Through this method, employees can only be rejected if the employee background check does not come up clean. 

Other Guides Related to Employee Background Checks 

Protecting your Business: An Easy Guide to US Employee Background Checks

Protecting your Business: An Easy Guide to UK Employee Background Checks

Protecting your Business: An Easy Guide to Australian Employee Background Checks