A Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check is an important part of the pre-employment screening process across various industries in the UK. The basic DBS Check involves looking carefully at an individual’s criminal history to assess their suitability for a wide range of roles. Formerly known as a CRB check, the DBS check process was set up by the UK government and overseen by the Disclosure and Barring Service, established in 2012. There is a separate but similar process for getting criminal records checks in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

There are three levels of DBS checks – Basic, Standard, and Enhanced. As the names suggest the basic check offers the lowest level of detail, and the standard and enhanced checks are more comprehensive. Anyone can get a basic DBS check, whereas the standard and enhanced checks are restricted to people working in specific occupations. Employees do not have the flexibility to choose what sort of check they undergo.


Basic DBS Check

A Basic DBS check will provide a list of a candidate’s unspent convictions only. A Basic check can be requested by an individual on themselves, or by an employer for any type of job role. It is a good way of establishing someone’s general character and flagging up convictions which may be of concern. Knowing whether or not any convictions are classed as spent can be complicated, and there are lots of calculators available online to help with this if you have been in trouble with the law in the past.


Standard DBS Check

A standard DBS check will have the detail included on a basic check, plus any spent convictions and cautions which are disregarded in other situations. This level of check is usually required for people who are working in certain financial services role, or who are employed by official bodies such as the Court Service.


Enhanced DBS Check

This is the highest level of disclosure and is usually required for people who are working with children, or vulnerable adults. People who work in healthcare or education will have this level of DBS check. An enhanced disclosure will contain all the information which might appear on a basic or enhanced disclosure but can also include information provided by the Police. This could be information about pending cases which are yet to come to court, or any other non-conviction details relevant to the role. Most enhanced DBS checks will also include a search of the Barring Lists, a register of those people who have been formally blocked from taking up certain types of employment.


Timescales for DBS Checks

In general, it takes around four weeks from filling in the DBS form online to receiving your certificate in the post. Processing times can vary considerably though across the year, and between different police force areas. Whether or not you can start work while waiting for your DBS check to arrive will depend on the policies of your individual employer. Some might be happy for people to start and undergo training while they wait.