Not-for-profit Law
Legal help for community organisations

Background checks

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Screening procedures for potential candidates

When your not-for-profit organisation is looking to recruiting volunteers or employees you need to conduct appropriate screening procedures to manage the risks they may pose to your organisation.

The checks you undertake will depend on the nature of the work the employee or volunteer will be undertaking.  If someone has access to money, equipment or data, it may be appropriate to undertake a police check. If they will be working with children (this has a special meaning), it is a legal requirement to undertake a Working With Children Check.

Screening applicants appropriately when your organisation is recruiting is a good way to try to keep your organisation safe and to head off potential problems before they arise.

All organisations have a duty of care (a legal responsibility) to ensure a safe environment for employees, volunteers and clients, and being appropriately informed  will help.

Police checks

While police checks are generally not necessary there are certain industries where they are mandatory. For example, aged care facilities that are funded by the Australian Government are required to screen employees and volunteers who have (or are likely to have) direct contact with care recipients. You should check your funding and insurance contracts to see whether any background checks are required.

Those who recruit volunteers for services have a duty of care to ensure that they take reasonable steps to avoid harm to the organisation and its existing employees, volunteers and clients. Even if the law, or any funding agreement, does not require a police records check, your organisation may decide that a criminal record check is necessary.

If your organisation requires that applicants undergo police checks during the recruitment process, you must not refuse an applicant because he or she has a prior conviction for an offence that has no relevance to the position.

There are legal protections against discrimination on the basis of criminal record, and you should only refuse an applicant on the basis of a criminal past when you believe that the prior offence prevents the applicant from performing the 'inherent requirements' of the position.

For more information go to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).

Privacy laws

In the recruitment process your organisation will gain access to personal information about candidates, so the privacy laws may apply to govern the ways your organisation manages that information.

Even if the privacy laws don't apply to your organisation, the ways your organisation uses, stores and discloses that information might impact on your reputation, so it is worth considering how best to approach information about individuals.

Not-for-profit Law has produced a guide on privacy, to download the guide go to the Privacy page.

Working with children checks

Employees (or volunteers) of any organisation who will be undertaking 'child related work' must not commence in that role until they obtain a Working with Children check (WWC Check). The Victorian Working With Children Act 2005 defines what is 'child related work'. It includes roles and responsibilities that involve regular, direct contact with a child.

The WWC Check focuses on specific offences (which may impact on the safety of children), and is 'ongoing', meaning that the applicant's criminal record is monitored throughout the life of the WWC Check. It differs to a police check.

The WWC Check also involves inquiries being made with certain professional disciplinary bodies beyond law enforcement agencies (eg. the Victorian Institute of Teaching and the Out of Home Carers Suitability Panel).

For Not-for-profit Law's comprehensive Guide on Working with Children Checks, go to our Recruitment of employees page. 


Working with children checks

Employees (or volunteers) of any organisation who will be undertaking 'child-related work’ must not commence in that role without a Working with Children Check (WWC Check).  The Child Protection (Working with Children) Act 2012 (NSW) defines what is 'child-related work’.

Failure to comply with these requirements can result in serious penalties for both the organisation and the employee or volunteer who has failed to undertake the check. 

Not-for-profit Law has produced a comprehensive guide on Working with Children Checks. To access this guide go to the NSW section of our Recruitment of empoyees page. 

More information is also available at the NSW Office of the Children's Guardian webpage.

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