In the past, when employers in British Columbia requested police information checks on prospective employees, there were no clear guidelines on the type of information that would be provided. It was common for police information checks to include information about mental health issues relating to the prospective employee, including such information as details related to suicide attempts. Police information checks also routinely included information about “adverse police contact” despite the fact that the individual may never have been charged or convicted of any offence with respect to the “adverse police contact”.
As a result of concerns raised by the British Columbia Information and Privacy Commissioner with respect to the type of information being disclosed, the BC government has issued a policy providing guidelines to all police forces in British Columbia with respect to the type of information that may be disclosed in a police information check. The policy guidelines were revised in January 2015.
The policy guidelines now differentiate between police information checks that are related to people who are applying to work or volunteer with “vulnerable” persons as opposed to prospective employees who are not. Vulnerable persons are those who are in a position of dependence on others or at greater risk than the general population of being harmed by a person in a position of authority/trust as a result of their age, disability, or other circumstances.
More Police Information Released for Potential Employees Working With Vulnerable People
In releasing information with respect to the employment of an individual who will be working with vulnerable persons, the policy guidelines state that police should provide to the prospective employer all warrants, outstanding charges, convictions, and adverse police contacts. In addition, information on convictions for sexual offences is to be provided even if a pardon has been granted or the record suspended. Adverse contacts with the police that involve the threat or use of violence are also to be disclosed, provided that the mental health status of the individual is not disclosed. The police, however, are not to disclose apprehensions under the Mental Health Act. Accordingly, the policy guidelines will permit significant disclosure of police information when dealing with the protection of vulnerable persons.
If the applicant is not seeking employment or work as a volunteer with vulnerable persons, the information that will be disclosed by the police is more limited. In this situation, the police information check will provide information on “all warrants, outstanding charges, and convictions” but will not disclose adverse contacts with the police, mental health issues, or apprehensions under the Mental Health Act.
The policy guidelines with respect to police information checks have not been legislated. The expectation is that police forces in British Columbia will now conduct their information checks in accordance with the new policy guidelines.