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Credit checks

Employers may do credit checks of an applicant only if there is significant financial risk such as dealing with accounts or financial administration, and the short-listed employee has consented.

An employer can’t ask for a credit check of a prospective employee unless:

  • the job involves financial risk. Credit reporters can’t give out credit reports to employers unless they reasonably believe that this test has been met. Simple cash handling duties (eg retail assistant in a shop) may not be a “significant financial risk”, however many banking activities are
  • the prospective employee gives their permission.

Credit checks should be limited to short-listed applicants; they should not be done to create the short-list. When doing credit checks, the employer must:

  • before undertaking the credit check, tell the person what information is being collected, how and why it is being collected, where it will be kept, whether provision is voluntary and the consequences if the person refuses
  • tell the person that they have a right to access and correct the information if necessary
  • keep the information secure
  • only use the credit check to ascertain whether there is any financial reason not to give the person the job
  • not keep the information for longer than necessary.

Other resources

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner has a guide to the Privacy Act for employers and employees (external link) , which sets out when employers may ask for a credit check.

Citizens Advice Bureau (external link) has some useful information on credit checks and records.

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