DBS Checks in the UK
In the UK, employers have the right to check the background of people applying for certain roles. Over the years this process has been known under various names and is now run by the Disclosure and Barring Service, commonly abbreviated to DBS. Read on for everything you need to know about the system, the types of checks, and how to get a check done.
Why do we need Police checking?
Not every job needs a background check into an applicant’s police record. In general terms, the roles which will need checking are positions of trust in banks and the legal profession, or any job involving vulnerable groups like patients in hospital, children, disabled adults or the elderly. A high-profile murder case which saw a convicted criminal getting a job as a school caretaker saw the introduction of the Criminal Records Bureau for police checks in 2002. After 10 years, this organisation changed to become the DBS. Police checks are all about keeping people safe. Employers have to check that people with convictions for theft and fraud aren’t getting jobs managing our money, and that people who have committed crimes against children aren’t working in our schools.
UK Differences in CRB Checks
It’s important to note that the DBS deals with England and Wales only. There are similar systems for performing background checks in Scotland and Northern Ireland, known as Disclosure Scotland and AccessNI respectively. These organisations use different terminology and have separate application processes but the basics are the same. If you are living in England or Wales, you’ll need to go to the DBS to get your checks done.
Levels of Checking
There are three different levels of DBS checks. These are Basic, Standard and Enhanced. As the name suggests, the Enhanced level is the most detailed check which shows the most information. You can’t decide what level of check you’d like to have. Neither can your employer. The government produces guidance about the types of jobs which should be checked, and what level of checking is needed. Employers and voluntary organisations use their guidance to work out what checks to run.
Getting a DBS Check
Usually, a job advert will specify whether you’ll need a DBS check or not. In some roles, such as working as a carer or as a teaching assistant in a school, it is not stated but as these roles always require DBS checking, it’s assumed. If a DBS check is needed, this is usually mentioned again at interview. Once you’re offered the job, the checking process will begin. Some employers won’t let you start work until you get your DBS certificate, so it’s in your own interests to get things moving quickly. There are four main steps to getting your certificate, and we’ll run through each one in turn. Remember your employer, or the voluntary organisation is there to help if you get stuck. The DBS also has a helpline to answer any more specific queries.
Step One – The Application
The first thing you’ll need to do is complete the DBS application form. It’s always easiest to do this online. The application form will ask you to state what type of disclosure check you are applying for. The rest of the form is concerned with your basic identity details – all names you’ve previously used, your date of birth, an address history going back 5 years and so on. It’s really important to make sure you read the questions in the form properly and answer in full. Any mistakes or information left off will just mean your form is sent straight back to you for corrections.
Step Two – Proving Who You Are
There are several checks and balances in the DBS process to make sure that checks are being run against the right people. This is to eliminate the possibility of a criminal assuming someone else’s name and getting a DBS check which allows them to work. You will be asked to provide a combination of different documents which show who you are and where you live. You’ll need photographic ID like a passport or driving licence along with utility bills, bank statements or council tax bills showing your name and address. Show the originals of these to a designated person at your employer who will then submit your form for checking at the DBS.
Step Three – The Checks
After the DBS receives your completed form and checks it over to make sure there is no information missing. Your form will then be sent to the Police Force in your local area to run checks. In some areas of the country checks are done quicker than others, but over the last year all areas have improved their performance statistics. It usually takes two to three weeks for the police to do their checks. If you’ve completed the application online, you can track progress of your checks through the website.
Step Four – Printing the Certificate
The police will report what they have found on their records back to the DBS. If you have had no brushes with the law in the past and your record is blank, your certificate will be blank too. Not every conviction and caution will appear on your DBS certificate. It will depend on the level of checking and how long ago the conviction happened. The certificate is sent to your home address, not to your employer.
Convictions and Cautions on a DBS Certificate
Contrary to public belief, you can’t pass or fail a DBS check. The certificate is just a statement of fact – it’s up to the employer to decide what they want to do with that information. Each employer has a different policy. For most jobs, a couple of very minor cautions a long time in the past won’t matter. More recent, serious convictions might. Honesty is usually the best policy when it comes to employers, especially when you can show that you’re a reformed character. If however there is information on your DBS certificate which you’re sure doesn’t apply to you, then you have the right to challenge this and have it corrected.