A bit like the driving test or GCSEs, you’ll often hear or see people discussing passing or failing a DBS check. This is probably one of the biggest myths about the whole DBS system, and it’s worth taking the time to understand exactly why this isn’t a pass or fail scenario, especially if you’re job hunting.


The DBS Certificate

The DBS certificate – or the similar pieces of paper issued by bodies in Northern Ireland or Scotland – won’t show grades, or pass/fail, or give any guidance to an employer about whether you should be offered the job or not. The DBS certificate is designed as a statement of fact without any judgement implied. The certificate will state your name, date of birth and address, and then will list any convictions or cautions which the DBS has disclosed, according to its policies and rehabilitation law. It’s then up to the employer to look at the information and decide whether they want to go ahead and offer the job or not.


Safeguarding and Employers

In nearly all cases, it’s up to employers what they do with the information which is given on your disclosure certificate. The exception to this is when someone’s name appears on a Barred List, which is a register of people who are legally banned from working in certain occupations. People who are on these registers cannot be employed and are committing a criminal offence by trying to get the job in the first place.

In other situations, employers will set their own policies and make decisions on a case-by-case basis. Most employers will recognise that someone who has committed a couple of minor offences many years ago might have completely changed over the years and that there is no risk associated with employing them. Other employers might have a safeguarding policy which says that they will only accept people with a clear DBS check. It’s really up to them to make their own decisions depending on their individual circumstances, assuming their actions are not discriminatory.


What Will My DBS Check Show?

Something like a third of all UK male adults have some sort of criminal record, and in many cases, this refers to an offence committed many years in the past. The DBS has a process called filtering, and what will be shown on a certificate will depend on the level of check being undertaken and the type of offence. In general terms, offences committed under the age of 18 will usually not be disclosed, unless very serious. There is lots of information online about the rehabilitation laws and how long it takes an offence to be “spent” and disregarded in most situations. The Unlock charity, which specialises in advice for ex-offenders, can also give general guidance on issues regarding criminal records and disclosures.



Whatever is shown on your DBS certificate, even if completely blank, your employer has a legal duty to keep that information confidential. In nearly all cases, your colleagues have no right to know about any offences or cautions on your record.