Seems like a very straightforward question, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, there’s not a straight or simple answer to this one, and it will depend on the circumstances, the type of employer and the type of role being undertaken.
DBS – The Basics
Disclosure and Barring Service checks are carried out on a wide range of occupations. The types of occupation which require DBS checking are set out by the government and DBS; it’s not up to the employer to decide who they want to check. In Scotland, there is a similar system called PVG (Protecting Vulnerable Groups) and in Northern Ireland, AccessNI checks. The whole point of the DBS system and other schemes is to protect children and vulnerable adults from potential harm by employing someone with a criminal past. If a DBS comes back showing that the applicant has a criminal record, then it’s up to the employer to look at the information disclosed, the role being applied for and to decide whether or not to offer the position. There are no rights and wrongs – each decision will be made on its merits.
Failing to Do Checks
Although many bodies have policies and procedures recommending that all staff should be DBS checked, this is not a legal requirement. Large employers such as the NHS or schools will not have any option but to follow the processes set out by their managers and bodies such as OFSTED or the Department of Health. Smaller organisations working in allied professions can choose whether or not they conform to the industry best practice – most choose to do so and thoroughly check the staff applying to work with them, but if they don’t, they are not necessarily committing a crime by not doing the checks.
However, if a company employs someone without doing checks, and at a later date there is an incident involving that employee, their policies could be called into question, especially if previous convictions come to light. Employers who find themselves in this type of situation may face legal action from their service users, and compensation claims running into hundreds of thousands of pounds. When that possibility is weighed against the relatively small cost of going through the DBS checking process, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to scrimp on checking.
Starting Work Without Checks
DBS checks take around three weeks to come through, but in some parts of the country at certain types of the year, backlogs can occur. Often, employers are desperate for staff to start right away, and might be happy for them to start work while their DBS checks are being processed. This is fairly standard practice, although many employers will put staff on restricted duties or team them up with a DBS-checked staff member while they are waiting for documents to be received. An employer who lets a new employee start work going into people’s homes to do personal care or work in a school unsupervised leaves themselves open to the same problems with potential legal cases.