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Criminal record checks for employment (basic, standard and enhanced DBS checks)

Bringing together links to information, resources, advice, FAQ's and useful links

Criminal record checks for employment in brief

  • For the majority of jobs you don’t need to disclose your criminal record once it’s ‘spent’. This is thanks to the protection given by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. Once your conviction is spent it will no longer appear on a basic DBS certificate and doesn’t need to be disclosed to an employer.
  • If you’re applying for a job and being asked to do a standard or enhanced DBS check, the onus should be on the employer to establish what makes the role eligible (with reference back to the legislation if necessary). The way the legislation is structured means that all positions are eligible for a basic DBS check. Only if the role meets certain requirements does it mean that it’s eligible for a standard or enhanced DBS check.
  • If you don’t think an employer is entitled to do a standard or enhanced check, it’s normally only worth challenging this if you have spent convictions. If all your convictions are unspent, even if you are successful in your challenge, the employer will be entitled to request a basic check.
  • If the employer insists on doing a standard or enhanced check, and you have tried (or don’t feel able) to challenge them, you should consent to the check and then raise a query with the DBS through their eligibility query process.
  • If you’ve got police intelligence held about you, and you’re applying for an enhanced check, you shouldn’t disclose it unless you have reason to believe that it will be disclosed by the police (e.g. it’s particularly relevant to the role, or its been disclosed in the past in similar situations). Once the enhanced check is returned to you, you will then know whether the police have decided to disclose it, and you can then make a decision as to whether to either (a) seek a review of the police force’s decision or (b) disclose this information to the employer.

Types of criminal record check and what they disclose

There are three main types of criminal record check carried out by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) for employment purposes – basic, standard and enhanced. However, if you are working overseas or require government security vetting, other types of checks will be done.

Any employer is allowed to carry out a criminal record check for any job. However, under the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) an employer must have a lawful basis for carrying out a criminal record check and processing data relating to criminal conviction. What type of check they can do will depend on the job, and this will dictate what you will need to disclose.

The only criminal record check you can apply for yourself is a basic check. This will show any unspent cautions and convictions.

Standard and enhanced DBS checks will show all cautions and convictions unless they are eligible for filtering. An enhanced check may also disclose any additional information held locally by the police (for example arrests and allegations).

If you are applying for a job which involves working in regulated activity an employer would also be able to ask for a check of the barred list.

What can you do if you think an employer is carrying out an ineligible check?

Understanding the rules around eligibility can be confusing. Some employers will knowingly try to carry out a check they are not entitled to do whilst others genuinely make mistakes. If you believe that an employer is doing an ineligible check you should agree to the check but then immediately raise an eligibility query with the DBS.

Frequently asked questions

  • The level of check an employer carries out is very important, particularly if you have spent convictions, as these wouldn’t be disclosed on a basic DBS check. We have general guidance on common job roles and the level of checks required.

  • You should start by working through the Establishing Eligibility Process to satisfy yourself that the position you are applying for is not eligible.

    If you have completed the application form but it has not yet been submitted to the DBS, you could contact the employer or Umbrella Body to say that you no longer wish to give consent. If you do this, it is likely that an employer will withdraw the job offer.

    If the application has been submitted to the DBS, you should raise this as a query with the DBS as an ineligible check.

  • The police can choose to disclose details of the criminal convictions of somebody living in the same house as you under ‘police intelligence’. This may include somebody on Home Detention Curfew. The police would need to be able to demonstrate that it was relevant to the job you were applying for before disclosing on an enhanced certificate.

  • Before an employer can check the status of your DBS certificate, you would need to have signed up for the Update Service. To check the status, an employer will need to:

    • Have your written or verbal consent
    • See the original enhanced certificate to check it is the same type and level as they are legally entitled to
    • Check your identity
    • Have the DBS Certificate reference number
  • Not automatically and in fact very rarely. An FPN is not a conviction. However, on an enhanced check, the police can decide whether to disclose it as part of their local police information. Assuming that the FPN is recorded on your PNC entry, it could be disclosed if the police felt it was relevant, although in most cases it is unlikely.

  • Your offence might still show on a standard or enhanced check, even if it’s never been disclosed before. This is because ‘step-down’ was removed in 2009 and has been replaced by the filtering process.

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