For Employers, For Individuals, Publications

Invisible Burden: Police Records and the Barriers to Employment in Toronto

February 21, 2018

Overview:

While the Canadian public assumes that a sentence for a crime is finite in length, in fact criminal records can have serious negative effects on people’s lives and careers long after their formal sentences are over. In particular, a police record can make it difficult or impossible to get a job, or to enter an education or training program, even when the crime is irrelevant to the job or education being pursued. In order to get a better understanding of the negative effects of police records on employment potential of Torontonians the Centre of Research, Policy & Program Development (the Centre) at the John Howard Society of Ontario (JHSO) conducted in-depth survey (n=35) and interviews with employers (n=4) and a focus group with 8 individuals with police records. The research, supported through funding from the Metcalf Foundation, continued to build on the previous findings from JHSO’s and other community agency’s work on the deleterious effects of police records on employment.

Key Takeaways

  • A substantial number of people in Canada, and particularly Toronto, have some form of police record.

  • Police record checks are requested frequently by employers and have a power effect on hiring practices and employment outcomes. Lack of Human Rights protections enables discrimination.

  • Police records disproportionately affect racialized, marginalized, and other vulnerable populations.

  • There is a strong correlation between employment and crime, and a vicious cycle begins when people with criminal justice involvement are denied work opportunities.

Research Highlights

0%
OF EMPLOYERS INDICATED THAT THEY REQUIRED POLICE BACKGROUND CHECKS FOR ALL NEW EMPLOYEES
0%
OF THE EMPLOYERS WHO REQUIRE POLICE BACKGROUND CHECKS REPRESENT LARGE INDUSTRIES
0%
OF EMPLOYERS INDICATED THAT THEY HAVE NOT KNOWINGLY HIRED A PERSON WITH A CRIMINAL RECORD
0%
INDICATED THAT THEY DO NOT HIRE REGARDLESS OF THE TYPE AND AGE OF THE OFFENCE AND THE TYPE OF POSITION

PURPOSE OF CONDUCTING POLICE RECORD CHECK:

COMPANY POLICY 33%
LIABILITY/RISK MANAGEMENT 28%
BILL 168 21%

Recommendations

Strengthening Human Rights protection for people with conviction and non-conviction records in Ontario by amending the Ontario Human Rights Code.
Exploring and piloting employer incentives to hire people with police records.
Education and toolkits for judges, Justices of the Peace, lawyers and police on the collateral consequences of police records and governing laws/case law. Education, toolkits and initiatives to help individuals with records and service providers build relationships with potential employers.
Government-led initiatives to educate employers and prioritize hiring people with records as a policy goal.
Creating a new record suspension regime for people with police records.
A Research Agenda to better understand: employer trends and practices with respect to hiring people with records in Ontario/Canada; the intersection of race, gender, police records, and employment.