How to arrange a criminal record check for potential staff

There are certain jobs (e.g. working with children) where employers are allowed to find out about their prospective employee’s previous convictions by making a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check. The Disclosure and Barring Service used to be called the Criminal Records Bureau.

Employers can only arrange a DBS check on a successful candidate. They can withdraw the job offer if the check reveals anything that makes the candidate unsuitable. 

If you're an employer who does a DBS check, then you must have a policy on employing ex-offenders and that policy must be available for any candidate who requests it.

Jobs that involve caring for, supervising or being in sole control of children or vulnerable adults require an enhanced DBS check. 

This check involves checking whether someone is on the two DBS ‘barred’ lists of individuals who are unsuitable for working with children and vulnerable adults. It's illegal for an employer to employ someone on one of these lists. 

In addition, an employer will break the law if they don’t refer someone to the DBS that they have sacked because they harmed a child or vulnerable adult, might have harmed a child or vulnerable adult, or the employer would have sacked them for this reason but they resigned first.

How to complete a check for criminal convictions

In order to begin a DBS check the employer gives the potential employee a form for them to fill in. They have to return this with their identification documents. The identification documents include a passport, driving licence, birth certificate or marriage/civil partnership certificate. 

The applicant also has to provide a document that shows their current address, such as a bank statement or utility bill. 

For further information on which documents are acceptable read the GOV.UK website.

An employer cannot do a DBS check without the applicant’s knowledge. 

There are three levels of DBS checks which vary in the level of detail from standard to enhanced. The price varies from £26 to £44 and takes between two to four weeks to complete, depending on the level of information required.

If you’re employing an overseas worker, you can contact their foreign embassy to see if they can do similar checks in their country.

Once the check is complete then the DBS will send the results to the employer and the applicant. The certificate has special features to show that it's genuine:

  • A ‘crown seal’ watermark repeated down the right hand side, visible on both the surface and when holding it up to the light.
  • A background design with the word ‘disclosure’ which appears in a wave-like pattern across both sides of the certificate, alternating in colour from blue and green on the reverse of the certificate.
  • Ink and paper that change colour when wet.

A DBS check is only for a certain date and purpose. Therefore, if a prospective employee produces an old DBS check, it's up to the employer to decide whether it's recent enough. An employer will also have to check that the prospective employee’s identity matches that on the certificate.

Employers who make fewer than 100 checks a year can use an umbrella body. For more information, see the Home Office's website

Employers who make more than 100 checks a year can register with the DBS and process their own applications. Go to the GOV.UK website for information on how to contact the Disclosure and Barring Service.

Other information


External links


Published on: January 30, 2013

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