Job applicants who committed minor crimes in their youth can now apply for expungements of those crimes.
The move has been welcomed by Quest Staffing Solutions, according to spokesman Kay Vittee, who says there was already a broad consensus that applicants who had convictions for crimes like drunk driving that occurred a decade or more ago should not have that criminal record held against him or her.
“Generally, employers take into account minor offences (classified as misdemeanours in the US) when considering someone for employment," she says.
“For example if a candidate had a drunk driving charge at the age of 18, 10 years ago, and has since proved to be an upstanding citizen in every way, this charge will carry little weight when considering the individual for a job. It could be said that employers have been operating in the spirit of the legislation for some time."
Shane Meintjies of background screening company IdentiRisk South Africa says any prospective job seeker who had committed a non-violent or non-sex related crime more than 10 years ago was eligible and should use the opportunity to improve their chances of finding employment.
Amelia Griesel, MD of Pretoria-based CSI Africa, says that the Criminal Procedure Amendment Act which, promulgated by parliament a while back, gives citizens the option of having their criminal records expunged provided they were not sex crimes, murder, rape, armed robbery or assault with the intention to do grievous bodily harm.
“Large numbers of people lose out on jobs when the employer does a criminal record check only to discover that the applicant has a criminal record. But nine times out of 10 the potential employer does not bother to check whether the criminal record was of a serious nature or not. The mere fact that the applicant has a record is usually enough reason to disqualify him or her.”
Griesel says that currently most agencies are using an online fingerprint system to check for criminal records. This is the most accurate measure currently available. It produces a result – usually within 48 hours – which confirms “possible illicit activity” or “no illicit activity”.
If a “possible illicit activity” report is received most prospective employers are not willing to wait for the full report from SAPS giving details of the crime and the sentence involved. It can take between three weeks and three months for the full report from SAPS.
Griesel says CSI Africa has been inundated with requests by individuals with criminal records to have them expunged.