Other recent legislative developments which employers need to be aware of include a number of legislative initiatives aimed at protecting children and vulnerable persons.

These developments include:-

  • The Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information on Offences against Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012  
  • The National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012  
  • The Children First Bill 2012

The Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information on Offences against Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012 came into force on the 1 August last year. The Act creates an offence of withholding information regarding certain arrestable offences against children and vulnerable persons. The Act applies to all but it is of particular relevance to those working with children and vulnerable persons.

Accordingly employers should alert staff as to the existence of the legislation and the obligation to report.

The National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012 was signed into law at the end of 2012. A commencement order is expected shortly. In anticipation of this, it is timely for employers to conduct an audit of their business and staff to ensure they are in a position to meet the requirements of the Act.

This Act introduces compulsory vetting and disclosure procedures for those people intending to work with children or vulnerable adults.

It sets out procedures for organisations to follow when making a vetting application to the Bureau and outlines the statutory rights of any workers being vetted. The Act imposes criminal sanctions for those who fail to properly vet employees. The possibility of criminal sanctions highlights the need for a thorough vetting process to be in place in relevant organisations.

The National Vetting Bureau is empowered to refuse registration of a person into a position if it considers them unsuitable as a result of the vetting procedures. Of particular note and somewhat controversially is that the Act proposes that employers will have to retrospectively vet current employees in situ who have not previously been the subject a vetting application. The outcome of this may create potential difficulties for employers who uncover something about an employee currently working for them.

Tips for employers:

  • Any relevant organisation which is not already registered with the National Vetting Bureau must apply for registration. "Relevant Organisation" is defined in the legislation as any person (including a body corporate or unincorporated body of persons) and any employment agency, which provides employment to workers in the child care and vulnerable adult sectors.  
  • Each "relevant organisation" must appoint a liaison person who themselves must be vetted.  
  • At recruitment stage, any job advertisement should reflect the fact that the position is to be vetted.  
  • Employers need to ensure that the vetting process is mentioned at interview stage and that any offer of employment to be made is conditional on the appropriate vetting mechanisms being cleared.  
  • Employers operating in this field should ensure that all employee contracts and handbooks reflect the provisions of the Act.  
  • Employers should consider whether they need to amend contracts to reflect the fact that an employee's position may be subject to future vetting by their employer.