Ina van der Merwe, Director and CEO of Managed Integrity Evaluation (MIE), says that job seekers who have a criminal offence on their record, no matter how small or 'insignificant', may find it difficult to secure work, especially where a candidate is required to travel internationally; visit high-security sites; or handle large sums of money and confidential documentation.
"The increasing use of technology such as the South African Police Service (SAPS) Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) has also contributed to the greater uptake of background screening for criminal histories."
In 2014, MIE conducted 541,472 criminal checks using Afiswitch technology. "Ten percent of these candidates were flagged as having a criminal record or being under investigation. Of the 10%, 27% were for a violent crime, 25% for theft offences, 17% for traffic offences and 7% for white collar crime.
"These 'categories' may contain offences which differ in severity. For example, in a case of theft, although one may look at someone who stole a tin of beans in a different way than they would a member of a house robbery syndicate, both would be filed under the 'theft' category," she adds.
"Many honest and hardworking people are haunted by their conviction for a minor offence committed in the past - often during adolescence and young adulthood. Although they never thought being caught drunk in public during their varsity years or stealing their neighbour's post-box at 18 years old would compromise their employability, it does. That one inane mistake you made all those years ago can have detrimental consequences for your career.
"A major factor considered when these changes to the Criminal Act were accepted was that there are thousands of unemployed job applicants whose criminal records were holding them and their careers back
She highlights that MIE does not condone criminal activity but believes that an offence should always be compared to the position for which the candidate is applying. "This is what we advise our clients to do when one of their top candidates is flagged for having a criminal record that holds little or no risk for the job at hand.
"For example, while someone with an assault charge against their name should not work in security, an individual with a DUI would not present a risk to the employer if he or she was to fill a bank teller position."
Unlike crimes of a serious nature such as murder, rape and other sexual offences or violent crimes, individuals who have minor crimes on their criminal record can, under certain circumstances, increase their chance of being employed.
Expungement is the legal removal of an offence from the criminal record of an individual by the Department of Justice. Taking up to six months, the effect of an expungement is that the conviction, a minimum of 10 years ago, falls away, being deemed to have never occurred.
Van der Merwe says that records that are considered for expungement include: