It’s common practice for employers in businesses or organisations dealing with children or vulnerable adults to require that their workers undergo DBS checking. In most cases, checks will come back clear, saying that the prospective employee has a clean criminal record and has never had any brushes with the law. Those cases are very straightforward for an employer – you tick the box saying a clear DBS certificate has been received, and the employee starts work as soon as they can. What happens though if the DBS check is not clear and shows convictions, possibly from many years in the past?

Spent Convictions

It’s important to remember that depending on the type of DBS certificate you apply for, not all past convictions and cautions will be shown anyway. This is because of the UK’s legal system, which considers a conviction as spent after a certain period of time, depending on the type of offence and other factors. This system recognises that many young people get minor convictions or cautions for shoplifting or getting involved in a drunken fight, but then do not offend again. A basic DBS check will not show any of these less serious or older convictions which are considered spent. Other types of DBS checks, especially those for people working with children or vulnerable adults will show details of all convictions and cautions, even if in other circumstances they would be considered spent and forgotten.

Considering the Information

When the DBS checks come back and the certificate informs you of the applicant’s criminal record, all you have is the most basic information about the conviction – the court, the date and the legal name of the offence. The only way of getting the story behind the conviction is to speak to the person concerned. In most cases, they will have told you about any past convictions at the interview stage, and bear in mind also that it is not unknown for there to be errors on forms so keep an open mind. In some cases, the decision will be very simple – it is unlikely that you will want someone with a long history of fraud and theft offences working in your bank – but in other cases the decision isn’t clear cut. If an all other respects the applicant for the job appears perfect and well-qualified, and they can explain convincingly about why they have a conviction for assault when they were 19, then you may decide that you are happy to employ them. It usually pays to seek advice from a HR department or senior manager when making the decision, and to bear in mind that the applicant has the right to privacy and confidentiality, and in most cases their work colleagues have no right to know about any criminal record.

Referees and Induction

DBS checking is just one way of ensuring that someone is suitable for the job. Always chase up references, preferably speaking to people rather than relying on email or a from. Induction procedures and training will also help by not throwing new members of staff in at the deep end.