The easy guide to employee background checks in Ireland


May 4, 2023

Hiring employees in Ireland? Don’t skip the background checks: Not only do they ensure the Irish team member you’re hiring will be a good fit for your company, but it eliminates candidates with criminal records who may cause trouble for your business.

Ireland’s labor laws, Acts, and other legislation are constantly changing, making the background check process somewhat nerve-wracking for global companies hiring employees in Ireland. You need to know what's allowed under Irish legislation, how you're obligated to handle and store your employees' sensitive data, and much more. 

We're here to help. Here's a step-by-step guide to comprehensive and legally compliant employee background checks in Ireland—read on.

Table of Contents

  • Are you legally required to run background checks on Irish employees?
  • Is it legal to run background checks on Irish contractors?
  • What types of background checks do businesses commonly run on Irish employees and contractors?
  • What types of background checks are illegal in Ireland?
  • When should you conduct Irish employee background checks?
  • The easiest way to run a background check on an Irish employee or contractor
  • Background check mistakes to avoid in Ireland
  • Frequently asked questions about background checks in Ireland

Are you legally required to run background checks on Irish employees?

Yes and no. While many professions don’t require background screening, the following require employment verification:

  • Roles that require individuals to make strategic choices involving significant amounts of money
  • Any job that requires you to work with children or safeguard people
  • Anyone working with money, such as financial investors, accountants, and treasury managers
  • Jobs in healthcare, such as pharmacists, doctors, nurses, research scientists, and any other individuals whose roles play life-altering decisions for patients or are involved in life support
  • Roles in which individuals come into contact with physically harmful substances (e.g., chemicals and gases)
  • Individuals whose work involves manufacturing food

Is it legal to run background checks on Irish contractors?

Yes: It is common practice for Irish employers to vet everyone working for them, including independent contractors. However, employment verification is more likely to be done on independent contractors if they’ll be working with children, vulnerable adults (such as the elderly), or in positions where they’ll require a security clearance or access to government contracts.

What types of background checks do businesses commonly run on Irish employees and contractors?

In Ireland, background screenings are conducted based on the new hire’s role. Below, you’ll find a list detailing the most common types of vetting, as well as some explanations and additional information about each (if necessary).

  • Name, date of birth, proof of address
  • Personal Public Service Number (PPS)
  • Educational certificates: This part of the background check verifies you went to the school you say you did, confirms that you graduated, and ensures the certificate is legitimate.
  • Prior employment data: You’ll need to provide a record of employment that goes back seven years. Your new employer will be looking at your job titles and duties at previous employers, as well as any achievements, if applicable.
  • Credit check: Employers want to see if you have any bankruptcies, debts, or judgments. 
  • Professional references: You’ll need to provide the contact information of each of your professional references. This is a pretty standard request from most employers around the world.
  • Certificate of character provided by the local Garda: This certificate concerns your criminal record and whether you have any criminal convictions. It is valid for 12 months. Employers can only ask for Garda vetting if the job involves working with children or vulnerable adults.
  • Social media handles: Depending on your role, your new employer may ask you to provide them with your social media handles.
  • Medical fitness reports: The only time an employer can ask for your medical record is if a record of good health is necessary for you to perform your job.
  • Work visa: This only needs to be provided if the employee is an immigrant in Ireland.

What types of background checks are illegal in Ireland?

  • Forcing new employees to consent to vetting. You must have obtained written consent and informed the new hire of any checks you’ll be conducting. Importantly, they must agree to the background screening; you cannot coerce them.
  • Discriminating against someone due to any of the protected characteristics covered by the Equal Status Acts 2000-2018 (also known as “The Acts). These protected characteristics include gender, marital or family status, disability, age, sexual orientation, race, religion, and others.
  • Unless the new hire’s job requires them to be in good physical fitness (for example, if they’ll be performing manual labor), you cannot ask for their medical history

When should you conduct Irish employee background checks?

Irish employee background checks are due diligence so they should be conducted as part of the pre-employment screening process. This is typically done after an offer of employment has conditionally been made to a job applicant. In other words, the employer will only hire the employee if they fully pass the background check.

Employers should also provide written notice to the job applicant that a background check will be conducted and obtain their written consent.

The easiest way to run a background check on an Irish employee or contractor

There are several different companies that can run background checks on employees in Ireland, including Rippling, HireRight, and BackCheck. 

The easiest by far is Rippling because background checks are directly integrated into the onboarding flow. Just enter basic hiring info like salary and start date, and Rippling does the rest: 

…and everything else they need from day one. See Rippling today,

Background check mistakes to avoid in Ireland

  • Not following data protection laws. Both the European Union and Ireland have data privacy laws. The former is called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), while the latter is referred to as the Data Protection Acts. These laws entitle employees to privacy and mandate that personal data should only be stored on a lawful basis—i.e., with your consent. Additionally, Irish employees have the right to request access to their data and to have any mistakes corrected.
  • Not getting employee consent. Ireland’s privacy laws require employers to obtain consent from applicants before beginning the process. You must also be transparent with candidates about what data you’ll be using and let them know that they have the right to ask for it. You must also tell them why you’re asking for certain data. 
  • Asking all employees for a Police Certificate of Character. Irish employees are only required to provide a Police Certificate of Character, which provides information about their criminal record if they’ll be working with children or vulnerable adults. If the position doesn’t involve either of these populations, you cannot ask the new hire for the certificate anyway.
  • Skipping the background check. Because of all the different rules and requirements, doing background checks on global hires can seem overwhelming—and it may be tempting to skip it altogether. But background checks are an important part of employee onboarding, and help protect you and your company.

Rippling makes it easy to run background checks in Ireland.

Frequently asked questions about background checks in Ireland

Are background checks legal in Ireland?

Background checks are legal in Ireland, but they must be conducted in compliance with both Irish and the European Union’s privacy laws, the Equal Status Acts 2000-2018, and other applicable regulations. 

Employers are only allowed to request information from job applicants that is relevant to the job position. Generally, this covers things like education verification, employment history checks, and personal reference checks. There are two notable exceptions: medical records and criminal background checks can only be conducted in certain instances. 

Additionally, you must obtain informed consent from the candidate before conducting a background check, store their information in a lawful manner that is compliant with the Data Protection Acts and the GDPR, and maintain employee confidentiality. You also cannot discriminate against any job applicants based on any protected characteristics, including race, age, and gender. Irish human rights laws also forbid discriminatory job advertising, so be careful with the language you use in the job description.

What language do you use for background checks in Ireland?

While the Republic of Ireland has two official languages—English and Gaelic—it’s likely the background checks will just be conducted in English.

Do different industries in Ireland require different background checks?

Yes. For instance, if the employee’s health affects their fitness for the role, you can ask for their medical records. Criminal record checks are limited too—they can only be requested if the role will involve working with kids or vulnerable adults.

How far back do criminal background checks go?

Criminal background checks in Ireland can go back seven years.

What are the benefits of running background checks in Ireland?

Background checks come with many benefits for employers, including:

  • Enhanced security. Background checks can help filter out job applicants who would pose a threat to the company or its employees.
  • Protection against negligent hiring. Companies can be held responsible for hiring employees who later engage in public misconduct. Background checks reveal past misconduct, helping mitigate this risk.
  • Better hiring quality. Background checks help filter out candidates with discrepancies or inconsistencies in their work or educational backgrounds. They verify that applicants are who they say they are, and that their stated qualifications are accurate.
  • Protection from occupational fraud. Background checks protect your company's reputation by helping avoid dishonest and fraudulent job seekers.

Onboard new hires and run background checks with Rippling

With Rippling's Talent Management System, you can seamlessly onboard new hires and set them up for success. Just enter basic hiring info like salary and start date, and Rippling does the rest—including running a legally compliant background check and e-verifying the results.

Ready to hit the ground running with every new hire? See Rippling today.

Rippling and its affiliates do not provide tax, accounting or legal advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal, and accounting advisors before engaging in any related activities or transactions.

last edited: March 26, 2024

The Author

Carrie Stemke

A freelance writer and editor based in New York City, Carrie writes about HR trends and global workforce management and is the Rippling content team’s expert on hiring know-how in Western Europe.