Generally, background/criminal records checks shouldn’t be done until after you’ve been offered the position, but sometimes employers require such information about you at an earlier stage.

An employer has the right to request that you consent to checks such as a credit check, a background check, a criminal records check, or that you consent to providing a driver’s abstract (1) so long as the information is necessary for the job, and the purposes for the collection of the information are reasonable and appropriate in the circumstances. You have the right to refuse to consent. The employer should tell you the consequences of your refusal so you can make an informed decision whether to consent or not.

Generally, the employer should not routinely require these types of checks to be done for all job candidates. Background, credit, criminal records checks, and driver’s abstract checks should be done only if they are relevant to the position, and only if you are being seriously considered for the position (i.e., not at the initial application stage). (2)

Until a commitment is made to hire you pending a clean record, these types of checks should be avoided unless they are required by law to be done at an earlier stage. In all cases, the personal information to be obtained by the check must be reasonably related to the job responsibilities and there must be no less intrusive means of getting the information. If the employer can get the information it needs using a method that is less privacy-invasive, it must do so.

Sometimes the employer is required under a contract to ensure that their employees are subject to one of these checks prior to hiring. Sometimes laws apply to employers requiring them to do these types of checks (for example daycares, private schools and other places serving vulnerable people must carry out background checks on their employees). (3) In either of these cases, such checks would likely be found by a Commissioner to be reasonable and appropriate in the circumstances.

What Happens to the Information the Employer Gets in These Types of Checks?

All of the normal privacy rules apply to personal information obtained for background, credit or criminal records checks and for information contained in a driver’s abstract:

  1. The information may be used or disclosed by the employer only for the purpose for which it was collected and not for another purpose, unless the employer gets a new consent (or if it is permitted or required by law to use or disclose it – a rare circumstance);
  2. The information must be protected and kept securely;
  3. You have a right to access the information; and
  4. If the information is used to make a decision about you, in most cases the information must be retained for a year to permit you to get access to it if you want.

A useful information booklet about criminal records checks has been published by the Ontario information and Privacy Commissioner, but it is relevant to BC


(3) For example, the Criminal Records Review Act R.S.B.C. 1996 c. 86 requires BC government employers, including school boards, health care facilities, government and government agencies to carry out a criminal records check on employees hired to work with children, but not until after the employee is offered the job.