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Do you carry out DBS checks on potential candidates?

Fair or not, many employers may feel some concern at employing someone with a criminal record. Not only is a blanket ban illegal, but you’ll also potentially miss out on a skilled candidate for the job.

While you’re perfectly entitled to ask during recruitment, a candidate is only obliged to disclose their ‘offender status’ under particular circumstances. One attractive option for such employers might be to apply for a DBS check on potential new hires. only available under certain conditions…

What is a DBS check?

DBS stands for the Disclosure and Barring Service (previously the Criminal Records Bureau), a government agency that manages applications for the checks.

There are 4 types of check:

  • Basic check – a report showing any unspent convictions and cautions (under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, offences are spent – i.e. should be ignored – after a period of time that depends on the offence and the sentence given).
  • Standard check – this report shows spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings.
  • Enhanced check – this is the same as a standard check plus any information relevant to the job that is currently held by local police.
  • Enhanced check with barred lists - the same as an enhanced check plus whether the applicant is on a list of people barred from doing the job in question.

As an organisation, you can apply for any of these except the basic check, though you can ask the individual potential employee to apply for their own basic check.

As for when you can apply for a check…

When can you apply for one?

The balance is between preventing discrimination, so as to give ex-offenders a fair chance, and protecting vulnerable individuals and avoiding wrongdoing in particular lines of work.

For example, while a spent conviction cannot be used as a reason not to employ someone, for certain professions (e.g. lawyers, doctors, police, etc.), regulated occupations (e.g. financial services), working with children or vulnerable adults, or any job that impacts on national security, a spent conviction is sufficient reason to say no.

DBS tips

First of all, if you use DBS checks, you’re required to have a policy on employing ex-offenders that is available to any applicant. Furthermore, good practice suggests being open about what kind of checks will be used as part of the hiring process.

Finally, unless your business falls into one of the categories mentioned above, you cannot legally operate a blanket policy of not employing ex-offenders, and to dismiss an employee for disclosing a spent conviction is itself a criminal act.

To return to the ‘fair or not’ statement at the beginning of this post, it probably depends on the circumstances, the offence, the nature of the job, and the individual in question. By all means, have your preferences on the issue, but try not to see every person with a criminal record as the same – it’s certainly doesn’t deserve an automatic judgement.

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