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Can you leave your past behind you?

25 September 2004

Can you leave your past behind you?

The United Kingdom provides New Zealand’s largest source of permanent and long- term immigrants. New Zealand needs these well-trained enthusiastic people, but prudent employers need to ensure that the people they are hiring are not leaving an unsavoury past undisclosed.

The media has repeatedly highlighted the risks of employing overseas candidates without undertaking background checks. The problem for employers and recruitment agencies is getting access to the information they need. Individual privacy protection laws make the access of personal information very difficult in some countries, and this in turn means it is relatively easy for high risk individuals to enter New Zealand where it is possible to repeat a pattern of offending.

Vetting applicants is absolutely critical in helping employers in the public, private and voluntary sectors, identifying candidates who may be unsuitable for certain work, especially those that involve contact with children or other vulnerable members of society. Hospitals, financial services and other high profile organisations also benefit hugely by identifying white-collar criminals prior to employment. This helps to avoid fraud or theft, and protect brand profile by removing the negative publicity of a bad hiring decision.

Strict Privacy Laws in the UK means that setting up a London based office for Personnel Profile Specialists Limited has been the only way to enable New Zealand employers access to British criminal records. The UK Criminal Records Bureau now requires every application to be submitted on a pre-issued, bar coded form. Legally, these can only be presented by, and returned to a UK based organisation. Personnel Profile Specialists Limited has set up an “umbrella” organisation in the UK, enabling them to provide vetting services to employers, both in New Zealand and in the UK. .

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“Background checks have become standard practice for many employers” says PPSL Director, Richard Peach, “and overseas checks are increasingly demanded as more management and skilled staff apply for jobs in New Zealand. PPSL provides a vital service to employers and recruitment agencies alike. The UK office nicely complements the local New Zealand vetting services, so now, Australia and the UK, our biggest immigrant populations, are covered by us, for employers.”

More than 15 thousand working migrants arrive in New Zealand from the UK each year and, according to the last census, more than 225,000 New Zealand residents were born in the UK. Employers and recruiters are now able to obtain criminal record and credit checks on these individuals through PPSL, the first local organisation to become registered as an authorised provider with the Criminal Records Bureau in the UK.

This service has already attracted a number of medical recruiters and banking organisations, who are taking advantage of this cost effective method of ensuring quality pre-employment screening as part of their organisation policy.

Mr Peach states “ Of course most immigrants and job applicants are completely honest, but you only need one ‘John Davey’ equivalent, to destroy a business’s reputation or worse. Falsifying application information is all too easy – and common.”

Some recruitment agencies do not undertake thorough background checks on the individual as they tend to focus on skill requirements and previous employment history, rather than the ‘written documentation’ of a person. Specialists like PPSL, are an integral part of the recruitment process and are vital to ensure that unsavoury individuals cannot simply move into New Zealand and start replicating crimes they may committed in other countries.

Everyone is entitled to make a fresh start if they have paid a debt to society and have reformed from past indiscretions. Equally, employers are entitled to know whether a new employee poses a risk to their business.
Many governments in other countries have “spent convictions legislation” mandating wiping a criminal record clean after a set period, for certain types of crimes. Two such bills are in the pipeline for New Zealand.

Responsible employers should ensure that they protect their businesses and individuals in their care, by diligently checking those that they employ. This is now possible for applicants from the United Kingdom.

About PPSL:

PPSL are specialists in pre employment screening for New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom, India and South Africa as well and many other countries. They focus on checking the hard facts by collecting criminal records, credit records, verifying educational qualifications and employment history. They provide employers and recruiters with a low cost means of accessing information prior to an employment decision.


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