When applying for a new job, it can sometimes be a little confusing trying to find out what, if any, type of clearance is needed. Over the last few years, well publicised criminal cases have led to changes in the law regarding background checks for new employees. This is largely because particular employees committed criminal acts despite being known risks before they gained employment. Although the vast majority of job applications are from honest, law abiding citizens, background checks are carried on in order to ensure such “bad apples” are discovered at the recruitment stage. It can surprise people, however, just how many jobs require specific types of clearance.
What is a DBS Check?
DBS stands for the Disclosure and Barring Service. This is a service provided by the UK government’s Home Office, designed to assist any employer recruiting new staff. Usually, when advertising for staff, employers will state what, if any DBS check is attached to the job in question. The DBS has access to police records, and so can check whether any job applicant has a criminal record. If they do, this is not necessarily a hindrance to their application, for a number of reasons. What the DBS system does, rather, is to ensure every applicant and every employer operates the same standards when recruiting. This is fair on applicants, as well as offering a consistent standard of assurance for the public.
Within this system, there are three levels of background discovery; basic, standard and enhanced DBS check. The basic check has to be requested by the individual themselves, whereas standard and enhanced checks are carried out at the request of potential employers. As such, the costs of each check rise with their level; and enhanced checks are carried out as a matter of urgency. In all cases, the individual receives a copy of the disclosure after the check is carried out. In Scotland, the whole disclosure process is carried out by the Scottish Government, and as such has slightly different parameters.
The basic DBS check is sometimes requested by potential employers, to be requested and paid for by the job applicant. In fact, there is no level of eligibility for this check; an employer may request one for their own reasons. Any job where the basic check is asked for will by definition be one where no public threat exists; this is covered by the strict criteria governing the standard and enhanced checks. It could be that a recruiter asks applicants to have a basic DBS check carried out in order to separate otherwise similar candidates during the final stage of recruiting.
There are clear definitions for when a standard DBS check is needed when advertising a job. These are defined by the DBS, and cannot be avoided by the employer. Standard checks are deemed necessary where the public may be put in danger, or institutions suffer financial and reputational losses due to an unsuitable employee. Any job which entails contact with children or vulnerable adults will require at least a standard DBS check. This includes jobs in teaching, social work, childminding, foster care and the medical profession.
It is sometimes the case that the physical environment, rather than the job applied for, requires applicants to receive a standard check. This is true for schools, children’s homes and hospitals. In these cases, it is the physical proximity of the workplace which may make the public vulnerable, rather than the profession of the employee. Even when volunteering, criteria for standard DBS checks remain the same; however, in this case the organization is not charged for the check.
Certain professions, meanwhile, require a standard DBS check for anyone applying for their first job in that field; this includes accountants, solicitors, barristers and vets. There is no expiry date for these checks, as they are only valid on the day they’re carried out. It could be that a new employer requires a new check. If the applicant doesn’t think such a check is necessary, they can ask the DBS to evaluate the position.
Enhanced DBS checks are the highest level of background check available in England and Wales. These disclose every instance of an applicant’s history with law enforcement, over their lifetime. This includes cautions and reprimands as well as actual convictions, whether current or spent. These checks are carried out for jobs which carry the highest potential public risk, and can be carried out within 24 hours.