It’s a commonly seen phrase when you’re browsing through job adverts or even on boards advertising for volunteers – “subject to satisfactory references and CRB or DBS check”. Most people are clear about what the references mean, but there is a lot more confusion about the other part of the process. CRB, or Criminal Records Bureau, is actually an obsolete term. In 2012, CRB merged with another body called the Independent Safeguarding Authority, and a new body called Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) was set up. The functions of this new body are broadly similar, and in the future this is the organisation which will carry out whatever checks may be required.

Dependent on Occupation

DBS checks are not standard practice for any occupation in England or Wales. Only certain types of jobs are covered by the legislation, and it’s illegal for an employer to carry out a police check on someone who is not working in that type of role. In general terms, DBS checks have to be carried out on people in positions of trust, such as those working with children or vulnerable adults, healthcare professionals, people working in law, financial services employees and people applying for licences to run a gambling establishment, a pub or hold a firearm. There is lots of guidance online about the types of jobs which will require a DBS check, and larger employers who recruit lots of staff will know exactly how the law works and who needs to be checked.

The DBS Certificate

The DBS process involves detailed research into the person’s criminal history, using Police and court records. When applying, the applicant has to list personal details such as their name and date of birth, along with details of all previous names and addresses over a set period. The DBS will then use this information to scour the databases and will list the relevant information. The level of information given depends on the certificate. All types of DBS check will list the person’s recent criminal convictions, and any past convictions of a sexual or violent nature, however long ago the offence took place. In many cases, minor non-violent offences such as shoplifting or being drunk and disorderly will be considered “spent” after a set period. The more detailed type of DBS checks will still list these convictions which can in other circumstances be forgotten. Cautions may also be listed, depending on the type of offence and the type of DBS check being carried out.

What Employers Do With DBS

Employers firstly use DBS checks to back up what a prospective employee has told them at interview. Most people are aware of the DBS scheme and have to consent to a check being done, so tell employers about minor offences in their past. Employers also use DBS to root out people who are being deliberately deceitful. DBS does not recommend to employers who they should and should not employ, they just state the facts as found on the record and it’s up to the employer what to do with the information.