HR 3 September 2018

A complete guide to DBS checks for employers

DBS checks
DBS checks exist to help organisations recruit safely

Writing for Business Advice, George Griffiths, managing director at recruitment screening platform uCheck, offers employers a complete guide to DBS checks and the eligibility criteria for each type of check.

Every year more than four million Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks are carried out on behalf of employers.

These checks exist to help organisations recruit safely; they are essential for safeguarding vulnerable groups, including children.

If you’re an employer recruiting for certain roles, you may be required by law to carry out DBS checks during the hiring process to ensure that the applicant is suitable for the role.

Read on to find out more about the level of DBS checks and the eligibility criteria for each type.

What types of DBS check are there?

There are four main types of DBS check that prove a person’s suitability for a role.

  1. Basic DBS Check

There are cases in which a role is not eligible for a Standard or Enhanced DBS Check, yet the employer may still want to check the applicant’s criminal record. This may be the case for jobs such as delivery drivers or shop workers.

A Basic DBS Check is not job-specific and so, in these circumstances, you can ask an individual to apply for a Basic DBS Check on themself. You can also request a Basic DBS Check on their behalf, provided that you have their consent.

A Basic DBS Check is the lowest level of check available and shows any “unspent convictions” (after a defined period of time, convictions and cautions can be written off a person’s criminal record; this is referred to as a ‘spent conviction’. If the defined period of time has not yet passed, these convictions and cautions will be “unspent”). 

  1. Standard DBS Check

A Standard DBS Check is required for roles that are listed as ‘exempt’ from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1975. This includes positions within the financial or security industries, such as solicitors, accountants, security guards, and locksmiths.

This level of check will reveal any spent or unspent convictions the applicant has, as well as any cautions, reprimands or final warnings.

The only exception to this rule is if the convictions or cautions are protected under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act of 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975. This is referred to as “filtering” and means that, although those convictions and cautions will remain on the Police National Computer (PNC), they will not be disclosed on a Standard DBS check. Filtering helps to prevent employers from taking old and minor offences into account when deciding who to hire.

  1. Enhanced DBS Check

Anyone applying for a role that involves contact with children and/or vulnerable adults will need to have an Enhanced DBS check.

An Enhanced DBS Check will reveal the same information as a Standard DBS Check, as well as any relevant information held by the applicant’s local police authority.

Contractors who may come into contact with children or vulnerable adults through the course of their work will also need this level of check, even though the nature of their role does not require them to regularly engage with these groups. For example, an engineer or technician who has been contracted to work in a school or at a hospital with access to wards will need to have an enhanced DBS check.

  1. Enhanced DBS with Barred List Check

The most comprehensive level of check available is the Enhanced DBS with Barred Lists Check. This level of check ensures that an applicant has not been prohibited from working with children or vulnerable adults.

It is required for anyone who will work in a ‘regulated’ position, which is determined by the nature and frequency of the work involved. A position is considered ‘regulated’ if the individual works directly and unsupervised with children or vulnerable adults; they must carry out this role at least:

  • Once a week
  • 4 days in a 30 day period, or
  • Overnight

Teachers, social workers and caregivers are some examples of the sorts of roles that would need this level of check, provided they meet the frequency outlined above.

For more information, see the government’s guidance on regulated activity with children and adults.

In addition, location can be a criteria for eligibility for an Enhanced DBS with Barred Lists Check. If you are hiring someone who will work regularly at an establishment where they may come in contact with children or vulnerable adults, for example as a cleaner at a school or care home, they will need to have this highest level of check.

Why do I need to know this?

As an employer within the professions and fields outlined in this article, it is your legal duty to ensure that anyone under your employ is deemed suitable for the role. Your organisation can be held legally liable for any safeguarding issues where adequate checks haven’t been carried out.

However, as an employer, it is illegal to request a Standard, Enhanced or Barred Lists DBS Check for any role that does not require one. It is paramount that you only carry out these criminal record checks if your organisation is legally entitled to do so.

Similarly, if the role you’re hiring for does not require a criminal record check then it is illegal to refuse to employ someone because of ‘spent convictions’.

If you would like more information on DBS checks, head to uCheck’s detailed FAQ page.

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