Recruitment

Screening

The aim of screening is to obtain information to confirm the identity and credentials of people and assess their suitability before they are employed or engaged and given access to an organisation’s information and resources.  Prior consent of the person being assessed is required for each screening activity.

Organisations must confirm identity, confirm nationality, confirm the right to work in New Zealand, undertake robust reference checks and undertake a criminal record check through the Ministry of Justice. The PSR Recruit the right person has more information on these checks.

Where external recruitment companies are used, organisations must be clear whether the recruitment company is to conduct any of the screening checks with any decisions being made by the recruitment company subject to clear and agreed decision-making guidelines (and this is included in the All-Of-Government Recruitment Services Contract managed by the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment).

Referee checks should usually be undertaken by the organisation, preferably the hiring or contract manager, rather than the recruitment company or other third party. The request for a serious misconduct disciplinary record from previous public service employers (see below) must be conducted by the organisation.

Referee checks for prospective employees and contractors are expected to be completed prior to any contractual relations being formed, with checks usually happening at the preferred candidate stage. As one of the referee checks, recruiting organisations will conduct referee checks with the candidate’s last direct line manager unless it is not able to be done, including for candidates from the private sector. In some circumstances it may not be possible to conduct a referee check with the immediate past line manager.  In these cases, the recruiting organisation should clearly document the reasons and conduct a reference check with the HR manager of the immediate previous employing organisation, and a previous line manager, to receive adequate assurance.

Referee checks include questions on whether the candidate has ever, to their knowledge, had a serious misconduct investigation, upheld or currently occurring, or has been dismissed from employment. Guidance and tools are available to assist managers to identify warning signs, for example unexplained gaps in employment history, that may signal concerns about a person’s integrity and suitability for employment or engagement.

Screening checks should be undertaken on all people even if they come from another Government organisation or have previously been in a Government organisation. Where an applicant is internal, the organisation should consider whether previous verification checks were undertaken, whether the checks were as rigorous as the present screening process, and whether the previous checks are adequate for the work to be undertaken in the new role (e.g. for senior or high-risk roles).

Disclosure of whether the person has been subject to a serious misconduct investigation, concluded and upheld or currently under investigation

Step 1: All prospective employees (not contractors) are asked to authorise the disclosure of whether the person has been subject to a serious misconduct investigation, concluded and upheld or currently under investigation, from all previous State services employers (see note below for coverage) for the last three years.

Serious misconduct is conduct that can have the effect of destroying or undermining the relationship of trust and confidence between an employee and employer. Without this trust and confidence an employment relationship can’t continue[1].

It is proposed that a field is added to jobs.govt.nz so that at the application stage, candidates can indicate their consent to a serious misconduct disclosure taking place.  Until that change is rolled out, agencies need to obtain written consent from the candidate.

Agencies should ensure the prospective employee has a full and fair opportunity to put forward their view of events.

Step 2: Following that, if the application proceeds, the prospective employee is asked to consent to the disclosure of additional detail of the serious misconduct investigation, concluded and upheld or currently under investigation, by the previous employer. The organisation approached for the information must be shown evidence that the person concerned has approved the disclosure.

The previous employer providing the additional detail of the serious misconduct investigation should ensure the privacy of other people who might have been involved in the investigation is respected. The person should then have a full and fair opportunity to put forward their view of events and seek correction of any incorrect or misleading information the report contains.

If the person is not employed or engaged, the serious misconduct investigation report should be destroyed.  If the person is employed or engaged the report should be placed on the person’s personnel file. Templates for requesting and reporting are available for organisations to use when sharing a serious misconduct investigation report.

Overall: The checks for whether the person was subject to a serious misconduct investigation concluded and upheld or currently under investigation with the previous employing organisations, should usually be conducted at the preferred candidate stage, i.e. before contractual relations are formed.

If the candidate does not consent to serious misconduct disclosure, it does not mean they cannot be employed. The employing organisation can ask the person why they are refusing to consent and take into account those reasons in deciding whether to progress the application.

The organisation approached for a check for serious misconduct should provide the information within five working days.  These checks are organisation to organisation i.e. not with the previous direct line manager or other referee. This check should be conducted with Public Service departments and statutory Crown entities (Crown agents, Autonomous Crown entities, Independent Crown entities) only. Other State sector entities are not covered by these model standards and are not expected to maintain records and respond to requests in the required format.

The disclosure of a serious misconduct investigation, concluded and upheld or currently under investigation, is conducted for employees, not contractors, because serious misconduct records for contractors are not maintained by State services organisations. The reference check for contractors must cover whether the candidate has ever to their knowledge had a serious misconduct investigation upheld or currently occurring or has been dismissed from employment. If a contractor’s last previous role was as a State services employee, a check for serious misconduct investigation, concluded and upheld or currently under investigation, must be conducted.

For senior or high-risk roles, organisations should consider conducting the checks for disciplinary history for serious misconduct with previous State services employers for a longer period if appropriate.

Agencies should especially note that:

  • Disclosure of disciplinary investigations from previous employers must be based on consent from the person concerned
  • These provisions only apply to serious misconduct, not to other misconduct.

In conducting checks agencies should involve their Privacy Officer in designing a privacy-friendly way to collect, store, secure and dispose of information. The Government Chief Privacy Officer is available to help guide agencies in protecting personal information.

Fair consideration

All information gathered through screening checks must be considered by the manager on a case-by-case basis including against the risk profile of the role, the requirements of the position, how recent any integrity or conduct issue was, any counselling, retraining or rehabilitation a person has undergone and the explanation provided by the candidate. The manager should consider whether strategies need to and can be put in place to minimise potential risk to the organisation, co-workers and others the person may come into contact with. Disclosure of serious misconduct does not mean the person cannot be employed.

Model standards:

  • Policies and procedures include guidance on when and how screening is undertaken for prospective employees and contractors and the standards that apply, including screening overseas applicants, and the roles and responsibilities of third-party providers supporting recruitment processes.
  • There is a clear statement included as part of the application process that screening will take place, and the purposes for which the information will be used. The applicant’s written consent is obtained to allow the organisation to gather such information. This includes consent to the disclosure of whether the person has been subject to a serious misconduct investigation, either concluded and upheld or currently under investigation, from all previous State sector employers for the last three years.
  • Referee checks for prospective employees and contractors are usually undertaken by the organisation, preferably by the relevant manager (while noting that other screening checks can be undertaken by other parties, such as recruitment agencies). These referee checks are expected to be completed prior to any contractual relations being formed, with checks usually happening at the preferred candidate stage.
  • As one of the referee checks, the recruiting organisation will conduct referee checks with the candidate’s last direct line manager. In circumstances where that is not able to be done, a referee check is conducted with the HR Manager of that organisation, and a previous line manager, to receive adequate assurance.
  • Referee checks include questions on whether the candidate has ever, to their knowledge, had a serious misconduct investigation upheld or currently occurring or has been dismissed from employment.
  • Serious misconduct investigation checks are conducted by the recruiting organisation. These are:
  • Step1: A check with all previous State services employers for the last three years on whether the person has been subject to a serious misconduct investigation, concluded and upheld or currently under investigation.
  • Step 2: if the application proceeds and subject to further consent, a request for additional detail of the serious misconduct investigation from the previous employer.
  • The organisation approached for a check for serious misconduct should provide the information within five working days.

[1]  Employment New Zealand – Misconduct and serious misconduct

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