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Should food industry workers be required to undergo background checks?

Should food industry workers be required to undergo background checks?

The food industry is one of the pillars of the Australian economy. According to official statistics, accommodation and food services employ over 645,000 persons which represent 5.3% of the total workforce. The question is should these employees undergo background checks?

Police checks should be a must for employees interacting with the public

The driving principle in the hiring policy of any business should be that prospective employees who will interact with customers should undergo a national police check as any problem they might cause can lead to a lawsuit against the company.

The food services industry relies on two fundamental components - one is the products, food and beverages, they sell, and the other is the experience offered. People can make their own coffee, but many of them choose to go to the coffee shop because it offers social interaction. And this is exactly what an employee with a hidden criminal background can ruin.

Take, for instance, the case of a waiter with a history of sexual misconduct harassing a female customer. If such a case goes public, it will severely damage the reputation of that company.

In Australia, waiters, baristas and bar attendants account for over 200,000 positions in the food services industry. That is why criminal background checks australia are a commonplace pre-employment screening practice for persons working in the Australian food industry.

At the same time, businesses should make sure the employees in other areas of the food industry are reliable persons since they indirectly interact with the general public by preparing food and beverages. Should you trust an individual with a drug problem to prepare the meals served at your restaurant?

How to stay within the law

The problem with background checks is that under Australian law one person cannot be denied employment on account of a charge or conviction unrelated to the position they will occupy.

There was, if you remember, the high-profile case of a convicted child-molester named Hinch employed by fast-food giant McDonalds, which prompted an investigation into the company’s recruitment policies. It can be successfully argued that a guy selling burgers cannot really do any harm even if he does have such a conviction on his record. On the other hand, many children go to a fast-food, sometimes unaccompanied by an adult and they also host children’s parties. It becomes obvious that hiring a person with a sexual conviction on his record is quite risky, even though fast-food places do not fall under the Working with Children’s Check act.

How to keep your company safe

A company which employs many people who interact frequently with the general public should put in place a coherent background checks policy. It’s the easiest thing to do these days when all you have to do is contact an accredited online agency who has access to police databases in all Australian states and territories. In just a couple of days, the HR department will receive by email the results of the background check listing all disclosable court outcomes on a person’s criminal record.

After that, it’s up to the company’s hiring managers to decide how to use such information, if anything shows up, of course.

If an individual has a drunk driving conviction, that should not prevent that person from working as a waiter. On the other hand, someone with a drug abuse history might not be the best candidate for a job that requires close contact with the customers.