Does your business conduct criminal record checks?

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) recently found that Suncorp discriminated against a job applicant on the basis of his criminal record.  In that case, Suncorp withdrew a conditional offer of employment after routine background checks revealed the job applicant had convictions for child pornography offences.  Suncorp said it withdrew the offer because it had “serious concerns” about whether the applicant was able to perform the inherent requirements of the position and because an internal candidate had been appointed to the role.

Discriminating against employees and job applicants on the basis of an irrelevant criminal record and/or spent convictions is unlawful in some Australian states, although the laws vary from state to state.  At the federal level, discrimination in employment on the basis of criminal record and/or spent convictions is not unlawful, however the AHRC has the power to investigate complaints and may conduct a conciliation to resolve a complaint.  If the AHRC makes a finding of discrimination and the matter cannot be resolved through conciliation, it may prepare a report for the federal Attorney-General, which must be tabled in Parliament.  This is what occurred in the Suncorp matter.

Charging for unpaid internships?

There have been stories in the media recently about employers charging students and graduates for the privilege of participating in an unpaid internship.  Setting aside whether an internship is a necessary step to build a career or exploitation of a vulnerable group, employers engaging interns should take note. The law around offering work experience and internships is clear and the penalties for getting it wrong can be significant. 

Too busy to keep employee records?

Two massage parlour companies and their sole director have been fined $43,200 for failing to keep employee records.  Demonstrating a refreshingly honest approach, the director said that he “did not do the records and other things properly, because I am too busy and lazy” and “I do not want to provide fake infor (sic). If I am not honest, I will have more trouble”. The Tribunal member hearing the matter said that the failure to keep records and issue pay slips was a serious matter and noted that the failure hindered the ability of the Fair Work Ombudsman to identify employee underpayments.