Worker screening (NDIS Providers)

What is worker screening?

The responsibility for providing a safe environment for people with disability rests with employers. Worker screening is an important source of information that can support you to fulfil this responsibility.

Worker screening is a way to check that the people who are working or wish to work with the NDIS don’t present an unacceptable risk to people with disability. It provides employers with an important tool for their recruitment, selection and screening processes, and in the ongoing review of the suitability of their workers.

As a part of the National Disability Insurance Scheme Quality and Safeguarding Framework, the Commonwealth, states and territories will implement nationally consistent worker screening arrangements from 1 July 2019. Until then, providers will need to comply with their state and territory worker screening arrangements. New South Wales and South Australian providers who will be subject to the new NDIS quality and safeguards arrangements from 1 July 2018, will have interim arrangements in place for worker screening based on their existing worker screening arrangements until the new NDIS Worker Screening Check commences on 1 July 2019.

Worker screening is only one of a range of strategies that providers need to put in place to identify and minimise risk of harm to people with disability. Providers are also responsible for promoting positive organisational cultures that do not tolerate abuse, neglect or exploitation, ensuring quality recruitment, selection and screening, and maintaining a focus on education and training for your workers.

New South Wales and South Australia providers

As the NDIS Commission is now responsible for the registration of NDIS providers in New South Wales and South Australia, these providers have new responsibilities and obligations in relation to NDIS Worker Screening from 1 July 2018.

There will be further changes from 1 July 2019 as new national worker screening arrangements are implemented and further information will be made available.

Identify which roles and jobs need a check

Registered NDIS providers are required to ensure that workers in NSW and SA have a state-based check if they are in a risk assessed role.

Risk assessed roles are:

  • key personnel roles
  • roles for which the normal duties include the direct delivery of specified supports or specified services to a person with disability
  • roles for which the normal duties are likely to require more than incidental contact with people with disability.

This may be different to the requirements previously set by your state or territory government to work in the disability sector. This means it is important you assess each role in your organisation against the new requirements, identify which roles require worker screening, and keep and maintain a written list of risk assessed roles and workers undertaking these roles.

Workers who do not have more than incidental contact with people with disability as a normal part of their jobs—such as administrative support staff—will not be required by the NDIS Commission to have a clearance, but you may choose to have those workers screened.

Example 1

Lee works for a mobility equipment company and delivers mobility equipment to the homes of people with disability. As a standard part of that role, he provides training and instructions to the customer about how to use the equipment safely and makes adjustments to the equipment to make it suitable for the customer. Lee needs to go through worker screening because his role is likely to require more than incidental contact. This is because Lee has contact with people with disability and the nature of that contact (such as testing the person’s needs and preferences with them, talking about and responding to the nature of their disability) means that there is a level of openness and trust that is likely to lead Lee building rapport with his customers.

 

Example 2

Sue is an accountant who works in the ‘back office’ of a business that supplies custom prosthetics to people with disability. Sue often has coincidental contact with people with disability while she’s moving through public areas of the business, such as when she walks through the lobby, at which time Sue nods and says hello to the customers. Sue does not need to go through worker screening because her role does not involve the direct delivery of custom prosthetics, and she is not required to have more than incidental contact with people with disability. This is because the duties of her role do not require her to have more than polite, functional contact with people with disability, or get to know them in any way.

More information about the definition of more than incidental contact, including examples, will be provided in the coming months.

Exemptions

Secondary school students on a formal work experience program don’t need to go through a check to work with people with disability in the NDIS, provided they are directly supervised by another worker who has gone through a check.

Engaging people in risk assessed roles

Registered NDIS providers must ensure that workers engaged in risk assessed roles have gone through a check and hold an appropriate clearance.

Engaging workers that do not have an appropriate clearance in these roles could be a breach of registration conditions. It may also be an offence under state and territory legislation for workers to work without a clearance if their role requires a clearance.

Acceptable checks in New South Wales

For providers registered in New South Wales, any worker engaged in a risk assessed role must have:

  • a criminal record check done before 1 July 2018 and within the past four years showing the person did not have a conviction for a prescribed criminal offence, or
  • a criminal record check done between 1 July 2018 and 30 June 2019 and within the past two years showing the person did not have a conviction for a prescribed criminal offence, or
  • a current New South Wales Working with Children Check clearance for those providing services to children in the NDIS.

There are a range of organisations providing criminal record checking services, and providers have a degree of choice in deciding how to obtain a criminal record check. Individuals can also apply for their own criminal record check through the New South Wales Police Force.

Providers will need to register with the New South Wales Office of the Children’s Guardian to verify the status of a worker’s Working with Children Check or the status of their application for a Working with Children Check online. More information about the New South Wales Working with Children Check, including information about whether who is eligible and how to apply, can be found at the New South Wales Office of the Children’s Guardian.

Acceptable checks in South Australia

For providers registered in South Australia, any worker engaged in a risk assessed role must have:

  • a South Australian disability services employment screening clearance obtained in the past three years, or
  • a South Australian child-related employment screening clearance obtained in the past three years.

You will need to be registered as an organisation with the South Australian Screening Unit to check a clearance issued for South Australia. Once registered, your organisation will be able to start screening applications and checking the validity of clearances issued by the South Australian Screening Unit. More information can be found on the South Australian Department of Human Services Screening Unit website.

Engaging someone to work before they have a Check

Depending on the laws in your state or territory, a person may begin working in a risk assessed role once they have submitted an application for an NDIS Worker Screening Check or an acceptable state-based check.

If you choose to engage someone before a final decision has been made about a clearance, you must have appropriate safeguards in place, including:

  • developing a written risk management plan for safeguarding people with disability while a worker is in the process of obtaining a clearance
  • checking that there are no circumstances that would prevent the person from working with people with disability, such as being subject to an interim bar, or that they’ve had their application closed or withdrawn
  • checking that the person was not excluded on the most recent occasion that they were assessed by an NDIS worker screening unit
  • arranging for the person to be supervised by someone else who has a clearance
  • sighting a notice from an NDIS worker screening unit confirming that an application has been made, and keeping a record of the application number
  • making sure the laws of your state or territory permit you to engage someone in a risk assessed role after submitting an application and before a clearance has been issued.

Example 3

Cassie is a physiotherapy tertiary student who is on a work placement at a clinic that works with NDIS participants. She has applied for an NDIS Worker Screening Check and is being supervised by Isaac while her NDIS Worker Screening Check application is being considered.

Isaac works at the clinic as a physiotherapist and has an NDIS Worker Screening Check clearance. Isaac calls in sick one day, and there is no one else with an NDIS Worker Screening Check clearance available to supervise Cassie.

Cassie is allocated to other duties at the clinic that do not involve more than incidental contact with people with disability until an appropriate supervisor becomes available or Cassie is issued an NDIS Worker Screening Check clearance.

Record keeping

Registered NDIS providers are required to maintain a written list of risk assessed roles in their organisation. This list needs to include:

  • the title or another organisational identifier that you use for that role and a description of the role
  • the reasons why the role is a risk assessed role, and who and when that assessment was made
  • the name, date of birth and address of the worker engaged in that role
  • whether or not the worker is eligible for an exemption
  • the application number, check number, and outcome expiry date
  • records relating to an interim bar, suspension, exclusion or any action taken by the provider in relation to those decisions
  • allegations of misconduct against a worker with a clearance and the action taken by the provider in response to that allegation.

Records must be kept for seven years from the date the record was made. It is important to keep this list up to date. Records should be kept in an organised, accessible and legible manner. It is important that these records are kept in a way that would allow you, the NDIS Commission or a quality auditor to know which workers were engaged in a risk assessed role on any given day in the past seven years.

Engaging subcontractors

There are additional responsibilities and obligations for NDIS providers who engage another organisation (a subcontractor) to perform work on their premises or otherwise as part of their provision of supports and services in the NDIS. This is because the NDIS provider and the subcontractor need to work together to ensure the workers of a subcontractor are appropriately screened.

You must:

  • identify to the subcontractor each risk assessed role that the worker of the subcontractor engages in
  • take reasonable steps to satisfy yourself that the worker of the subcontractor has a clearance or an acceptable state-based check
  • make sure your contract with the subcontractor requires them to:
    • only allow someone to work in a risk assessed role if that person has a clearance or is subject to an exemption
    • only allow someone to work in a risk assessed role if the subcontractor is allowed to share information with you about any matter relating to whether that person be engaged in a risk assessed role, such as whether they are subject to an interim bar, suspension, or exclusion
    • cooperate with any reasonable request to assist you in investigating a complaint or a reportable incident involving their worker who is engaged a risk assessed role
    • cooperate with any reasonable request from you for information relating to whether and how it is complying with its obligations under the contract
    • impose these obligations on any other party with whom the subcontractor enters into an arrangement involving or allowing for the provision of services by another worker to you.

The NDIS Commission may require you to provide us with information or records provided to you by the subcontractor.

A new NDIS Worker Screening Check is coming

A new NDIS Worker Screening Check is being introduced from 1 July 2019. This will replace the different arrangements operating in each state or territory, and set a single national standard for all workers.

Once fully rolled out, it will enable a screened worker to deliver services and supports in any state or territory, or for any employer delivering services and supports under the NDIS, reducing paperwork for workers and employers, while increasing the safety of participants.

The NDIS Worker Screening Check will start in the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, the Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria from 1 July 2019, and in Western Australia from July 2020. Until then, existing state or territory worker screening or police check requirements will continue. These arrangements are set out in an Intergovernmental Agreement. More information about the future arrangements will be provided closer to the date.

A national database is coming

The NDIS Commission is working with all governments to develop a national database to support the new NDIS Worker Screening Check. It will:

  • keep a register of cleared and excluded workers from all states and territories to enable national portability of clearances
  • support national ongoing monitoring of the criminal history records of workers with clearances
  • mean employers can go to one place to sponsor applications and verify the clearances of prospective workers without needing to contact individual states and territories’ worker screening units
  • help providers with record keeping requirements.

The national database is expected to be available from July 2019, when the NDIS Worker Screening Check is available in most jurisdictions.