What is a DBS check?
A disclosure and barring service check, previously known as a CRB (criminal records bureau) check, is used to check someone's criminal record history. Upon request, a DBS check certificate will be issued that will either confirm or deny any criminal convictions. A DBS check is usually used by employers and organisations for the proper screening of candidates to ensure suitability, reduce risk, adhere to legislation and promote safety and security. The thoroughness of the check depends on the type of DBS check carried out.
Types of DBS checks
There are a few types of DBS checks you can obtain depending on the need. If you are hiring a factory worker you may wish to do a basic DBS check however for a teacher a higher-level criminal record check will be required.
Basic DBS check
A basic DBS check is the lowest level of disclosure and is carried out for any purpose, including employment. It will show if an individual has any unspent convictions or conditional cautions. An unspent conviction is an offence that the candidate has been found guilty of but has not yet served the time or settled the fine. A conditional caution is a form of penalty or rehabilitation alternative to prosecution.
Standard DBS check
A standard check will show any spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and warnings. This is a more thorough check which is used for certain roles where the chance of risk is slightly higher or the individual has more responsibility.
A standard check must be carried out by a hiring organisation rather than just an individual. Furthermore, charities or organisations taking on volunteers can also obtain a standard DBS check for volunteers free of charge.
Enhanced DBS check
An enhanced DBS check shows similar to the above except the employer or organisation can see whether the candidate is listed on the Children’s Barred List or Adult Barred list. This check would ensure the candidate is not barred from working with vulnerable groups.
An enhanced DBS check is also another check that can be requested by only employers. An individual cannot request an enhanced DBS check.
For standard and enhanced checks, the position of the employee must require participation in regulated activities with children or vulnerable individuals. These positions must be mentioned in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (Exceptions) Order 1975 and the Police Act 1997.
Some regulated positions include:
- providing health services
- social work
- providing personal care
When do you need to get a DBS check for your employee?
DBS checks are carried out by employers when they want to screen the criminal record of the candidate they are hiring. More commonly it is used by employers in the teaching sector, child minding and health service providers where individuals are required to assist vulnerable adults.
How much does a DBS check cost?
The costs to submit each type of DBS check via the government's disclosure and barring service are listed below:
- Basic DBS check £18
- Standard DBS check £18
- Enhanced DBS check £38
You can register with DBS if you complete over a hundred checks per year if not you can use an umbrella company for this service. Many agencies provide DBS checks which will usually come at a small administration fee.
When do you need to do a DBS check?
There is no legal requirement for companies to obtain DBS checks for employees, however, businesses may choose to do this to err on the side of caution. If you run a small business and you wish to hire an employee who will have significant responsibility in your business you may want to be sure they don't have unspent convictions.
The only legal requirement arises when an employee is involved in a regulated activity. Employers must check that those working with children or vulnerable adults are not barred from doing so, by way of a DBS check.
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Important things to know for employers
Any employer can ask for basic disclosure of any unspent convictions for a candidate they wish to hire however under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA) 1974, it is against the law to refuse to employ a rehabilitated person on the grounds of a spent conviction. You can request a check for an employee applying for a role however, access to standard and enhanced DBS check is only available to employers who are entitled by law to ask an individual to reveal their full criminal histories like employers in the healthcare or childcare industries.
A study in 2018, by Unlock, found that one in five employers break the law by asking questions about a candidate's spent convictions. 22% of employers were found to be asking questions about criminal records that could be misleading or unlawful.
Asking too many questions about a candidate's offences can be classed as the collection of unnecessary information, which can lead to a breach of the GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018.
How long does a DBS check take
It can take anywhere from 24 hours to up to 14 days to process DBS checks. Many providers are offering DBS checks and you have the option to fast-track an application if required.
Documents required for a DBS check
You will need to check the candidate's ID documentation to verify their personal details. The documents you check must be current, original and valid. Photocopies are not to be accepted.
For a basic DBS check it is sufficient to verify the candidate's ID using a document from group 1 (see below) and proof of address using a document such as a utility bill, bank statement, license or another allowable document.
For a standard or enhanced check, the candidate must present a document from group one and two other documents from either Group 1 or Group 2 with at least one of the documents confirming the candidate's current address.
- Biometric residence permit
- driving licence
- A birth or adoption certificate
2a - Trusted Government Document
- driving licence (full or provisional)
- Paper driving licence
- Birth certificate
- Marriage or civil partnership certificate
- HM Forces ID card
- Firearms licence
2B - Financial and Social History Documents
- Mortgage statement
- Bank or building society statement
- Credit card statement
- Pension or endowment statement
- P45 or P60
- Council Tax
- Utility bill
- Benefit statement
In some cases, it might not be as straightforward if the candidate is international or lacks some documentation. The government has another way around this if your employee isn't a UK national. Please see more guidance on the government website.
Can a DBS check expire?
A DBS certificate does not have an expiry date, as it's a retrospective check into someone's past criminal history therefore information up until the date of the check is valid. Companies may have different safeguarding processes in place requiring employees to undergo a DBS check as frequent as every few months to every three years.
What to do if an employee doesn't disclose their convictions
As the employee is not obliged to disclose any spent convictions unless in a role which is a sensitive area of work like healthcare or childcare, dismissal or disciplinary would not be justified.
If an employee has failed to disclose an unspent conviction it would then be a matter of the facts. The area is a bit grey here however there may be a case for fair dismissal if the employee was asked about unspent convictions and failed to disclose this and the nature of the conviction is relevant to the role.
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