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As an essential part of their safe recruitment process, many organisations require that DBS checks are carried out, and they make this requirement a conditional part of any job offer.
What is a DBS check?
DBS stands for Disclosure and Barring Service which was previously known as the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB).
You may find that some employers still refer to a CRB check, however, in 2012 the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA), who were also responsible for pre-employment checking services, merged to form an executive non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Home Office, called the Disclosure and Barring Service, more usually known as the DBS.
The DBS is responsible for the processing and issuing of criminal record checks to assist employers to make safer recruitment decisions in England, Wales, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. Employers in Scotland and Northern Ireland will need to deal with separate organisations; their criminal record checking services fall under their nations’ devolved responsibilities as there are separate legal and police systems in these UK nations.
Essentially the services these separate organisations provide are the same as those carried out by the DBS, however, a conviction is “spent” quicker in England and Wales than it is in Scotland, so that will have implications for the validity of information the check provides, therefore which criminal records check is applicable is based upon where the job is based.
What are the levels of DBS checks?
DBS criminal records checks are one aspect of ensuring that people in either paid or volunteering roles working with children, young people or vulnerable adults, are suitable to do so.
The level of DBS checks available are:
- The Basic DBS check – this is a criminal record check with the lowest level of disclosure. The basic DBS check only contains details of unspent convictions and conditional cautions according to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA). If there are no unspent criminal convictions or conditional cautions, the results of the DBS check will simply state that there are no such convictions or cautions. A spent conviction or conditional cautions will not be disclosed on a basic DBS check.
- The Standard DBS check will reveal the following criminal history:
– Spent convictions.
– Unspent convictions.
The standard DBS check does not disclose any other police information, nor does it check the individual against the children’s or adults’ barred lists.
- The Enhanced DBS check – this is the highest level of disclosure. The check includes details of all convictions on record, whether spent or unspent, under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA). This means that even minor convictions are included on the enhanced disclosure. The criminal history that will be disclosed on an enhanced DBS check is:
– Spent convictions.
– Unspent convictions.
– Checks against children’s and adults’ barred lists.
In addition to this information, all enhanced checks can involve an extra level of check with local police force records in addition to checks with the Police National Computer (PNC).
Enhanced DBS with a barred list check – there are two different DBS barred lists:
- The Children’s Barred List (formerly known as a List 99 Check).
- The Adults’ Barred List (replacing the Protection of Vulnerable Adults (POVA) Check).
These barred lists enable the DBS to keep records of unsuitable individuals, and prevent them from working with children and/or vulnerable people.
The roles covered involve engaging in regulated activities with children and/or vulnerable people and must be included in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975, and be specifically included in the regulations listed in the Police Act 1997, as permitted, to be eligible to be checked on these barred lists.
Information not included in a DBS check
The DBS is unable to access criminal records held overseas, so a DBS check may not provide a complete view of an applicant’s criminal record if they have lived outside of the UK. The Home Office provides information for employers on how to make criminal records checks for overseas applicants or for anyone who has lived overseas.
As of 28 November 2020, following a Supreme Court ruling, changes were made to the DBS filtering rules. The filtering rules establish which convictions and cautions no longer show up on standard and enhanced criminal record checks issued by the DBS in England and Wales. Full details can be found on the Government website.
Who can apply for a DBS check?
Basic DBS checks
Anyone, regardless of occupation, can apply for a basic DBS check and obtain a DBS certificate; there is no eligibility criteria and it is not job specific at this level. Some prospective job candidates may feel that by attaining a basic DBS certificate themselves, it may enhance their prospects of getting a role, and some prospective employers may list a basic DBS certificate as part of their criteria for the role or may request a basic DBS check as part of their recruitment process.
You can apply for a basic check by going directly to the DBS via their online self-service channel.
- It costs £23 if you apply directly to the DBS – costs will be higher if you use a DBS application service provider.
- Your identity will be verified by GOV.UK Verify if applying via the DBS and you provide all the information online. Information required is:
– proof of identity (passport, driving licence).
– proof of address (utility bill, bank statement).
- It does not have the option to give a third party, such as an employer, consent to view the check.
- It does not provide eResults to any intermediary or employer (as you have applied directly).
- You can choose to have your paper certificate sent to a third party or sent to yourself.
- It takes up to 14 calendar days for the check to be made.
Standard DBS or enhanced DBS checks
Standard DBS or enhanced DBS checks can only be requested by eligible organisations. If the employer carries out less than 100 checks per year, they use a registered body (acting as an umbrella body) to apply for the check on their behalf. An employer will need your consent before they can apply for a standard or enhanced check.
They will also ask you for:
- Proof of identity (passport, driving licence).
- Proof of address (utility bill, bank statement).
The majority of registered bodies sign up to the DBS e-bulk service which allows them to submit applications and receive the results electronically. This generally reduces the time it takes for the check to be processed but processing can take up to 10 working days for the standard DBS and up to 28 days for the enhanced DBS.
Once processed, the DBS will immediately send a notification to the registered body. Where the DBS certificate contains information, the registered body will receive an electronic notification to “await the paper certificate”. v
Where all fields on the DBS certificate are blank, the registered body will receive an electronic notification which will state “Certificate contains no information”. The DBS will send the certificate directly to you and you will be asked to share this with your employer.
The cost of the standard DBS check is £23 (free to volunteers), and £40 (free to volunteers) for the enhanced DBS check, although there is often a charge made by an umbrella body to undertake the check on behalf of an employer, if the employer is not a registered body.
A self-employed person who is eligible for a standard or enhanced DBS check can ask the organisation that wishes to contract their services to apply for their check. A self-employed person who needs a basic check can apply themselves through the DBS online application if they are intending to work in England or Wales.
Who needs a DBS check?
Basic DBS check
Any employer can request that their potential employee goes through a basic DBS check, and some employers believe it is merely good business practice to ask all their employees to go through the process. However, that does not mean that the candidate has to agree to a basic DBS check just because an employer asks.
In many cases completing a basic DBS check is a voluntary act by the candidate, although the job offer may be conditional to the DBS check being made and may be withdrawn if the candidate refuses to take one.
Examples of roles that may require a basic DBS check include but are not limited to:
- Bus or coach driver – Not a school bus.
- Beauty therapist – Therapists carrying out special treatments such as manicures, heat treatments etc will need to register with their local council; a basic DBS check forms part of this process.
- Call centre worker – Depending on the nature of the work.
- Army – A basic check may be necessary for some entry level positions. Further information can be found at Army Recruitment.
- Bookkeeper – Depending on the nature of the work.
- Government or civil servant – All civil servants are subject to Baseline Security Standard checks which require a basic DBS check.
- Councillor – Although this is not on the DBS exceptions list, the current law states that you are not eligible to be a Councillor if you have been sentenced to prison for three months or more (including suspended sentences) during the five years prior to election day.
- Estate agent.
- Fitness trainer/instructor (Adults).
- Funeral director.
- Painter and decorator.
- Retail, supermarkets.
- Pilot – The Civil Aviation Authority say that certain aviation roles are subject to National Security Vetting, although these roles are not published; however, checks are usual for all those working in airports.
- Hospitality industry and personnel licensed to sell alcohol.
- Train and tram driver.
Standard and enhanced DBS check
The types of positions which may be eligible for standard or enhanced checks are contained in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975.
These can be divided into five broad categories:
- Professions: such as medical practitioners, barristers, accountants, vets and opticians.
- Law and Order: those employed to uphold the law or involved in the criminal justice system (e.g. judges, constables, prison officers and traffic wardens).
- Certain Regulated Occupations: (e.g. firearms dealers, directors of insurance companies, those in charge of nursing homes and taxi drivers).
- Health and Social Care: those who work with children, those whose work is concerned with the provision of care services to vulnerable adults and those whose work is concerned with the provision of health services (e.g. care home worker, social worker).
- National Security: those whose work could put national security at risk (e.g. air traffic controllers and certain employees of the Crown).
More specific examples of roles that may require a standard DBS check include but are not limited to:
- Anyone applying for a security industry licence.
- Solicitor and barrister.
- Veterinary surgeon.
- Financial Conduct Authority ‘Approved Persons’ roles.
- Football stewards.
- Members of the Master Locksmiths Association.
More specific examples of roles that may require enhanced or enhanced and barring checks (roles ‘exempt’ from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and included in Police Act regulations) include but are not limited to:
- Roles working with children and vulnerable adults (paid or voluntary) – enhanced + barring.
- Teacher and teaching assistant – enhanced + barring.
- Trainers, tutors and assessors – enhanced + barring when working with under 18s or vulnerable people.
- Social worker – enhanced + barring.
- NHS medical professional – enhanced + barring.
- NHS administrators.
- Carers – enhanced + barring.
- Licensed taxi driver.
- Bus/coach driver – school bus.
- Sports referee/Umpire/Official – enhanced + barring, if the role involves working with under 18s or vulnerable people.
- School governor.
- Probation officer.
- Youth worker – enhanced + barring.
You can use the DBS eligibility tool to check whether the role you are recruiting for would be eligible for a standard or enhanced DBS check.
Positions not covered by DBS filtering
There are a small number of roles where filtered cautions and/or convictions can be taken into account. Some examples of this include police vetting for police constables and cadets; other positions include:
- Judicial appointments.
- Constables and persons appointed as police cadets to undergo training with a view to becoming constables and naval, military and air force police.
- Any office or employment in the Serious Fraud Office or in the National Crime Agency.
- The Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and any office or employment in their service.
- The Official Solicitor and deputy.
- Certain appointments to the office of Public Trustee.
- Any office, employment or other work which is concerned with the establishment of, operation of, or access to a database under section 12 of the Children Act 2004.
- Firearms dealers.
- A person who is required to obtain an explosives certificate.
Prison and probation roles are not included in the above filtering rules and applicants can therefore legally withhold details of cautions/convictions which are removed from standard and enhanced DBS checks.
Why is a DBS check important?
Ensuring that the people who work and volunteer with children and vulnerable people are appropriate to the role is one of the most important parts of safeguarding.
Although the interview process is able to ascertain whether a candidate has the right characteristics, experience, qualifications and skills to do the role successfully, it does not indicate that a candidate may have or had a criminal record or a non-criminal history that is otherwise of interest to the police, making them unsuitable to work or volunteer with children and/or vulnerable people.
The DBS check is how organisations can be sure that they are doing everything in their power to protect all those they have a responsibility to safeguard. Safer recruitment guidelines mandate that DBS checks are made prior to hiring and DBS checks are usually part of conditional offers of employment.
Is a DBS check required by law?
There is no legal requirement for anyone to undergo a DBS check. Many organisations require their staff to undergo basic DBS checks for best practice purposes. However, employers are legally obliged to ensure, by way of a DBS check, that any employee working in a regulated activity with children or vulnerable people has not been barred from doing so.
A definition of a regulated activity is:
For children – unsupervised activities such as:
- Teaching, training, instructing.
- Caring for or supervising children.
- Providing advice or guidance on well-being.
- Driving a vehicle only for children.
Working for a limited range of establishments (‘specified places’), with opportunity for contact with children such as:
- Children’s homes.
- Childcare premises.
For adults – anyone providing personal care to an adult is in regulated activity, irrespective of whether that occurs in, for example:
- Care homes.
- Day care centres.
- Sheltered housing.
Therefore, whilst candidates can legally refuse to take a DBS check, any offer of employment will highly likely be withdrawn.
There is no expiry date for DBS certificates; the onus is on organisations to determine how frequently they run new checks on their staff. DBS checking policies should be part of HR policies and procedures such as the recruitment policy.
It is really important to remember that the DBS check is only fully accurate on the date it is issued. You may not receive information about any subsequent convictions, cautions or warnings that staff members may become involved in after that date.
Implications for employers not undertaking DBS checks
One of the main implications for employers not undertaking and maintaining DBS checks on staff (paid and voluntary) who require it, is the potential for an employer’s staff member, client, service user, or customer to suffer mental or physical harm.
They are also liable to face legal action; if an employee is subsequently disciplined and dismissed due to either causing harm or having the potential to do so, failing to refer that individual to the DBS is a criminal offence. Employers cannot fully assess an employee’s (paid or voluntary) suitability to work with vulnerable people or children without carrying out a DBS check, and failing to do so puts others’ safety at risk.
The reputational damage experienced by an employer having to discipline and dismiss a member of staff who did not have a DBS check and/or paying a heavy fine for safeguarding contraventions would be very difficult to repair and would have long-term negative implications for that employer’s professional credibility.