Everything You Need To Know About DBS Checks

Comprehensive Guide to DBS Checks for Employers

Understanding DBS Checks

DBS checks (Disclosure and Barring Service checks) are essential for thorough pre-employment due diligence. Although legally required only for specific roles, many employers use them to ensure they are hiring trustworthy individuals.

Legal Requirements and Employer Use

DBS checks are mandatory for certain positions, especially those involving work with vulnerable groups. However, any employer can opt to conduct these checks to gain insight into a candidate’s criminal history, aiding in informed hiring decisions.

Types of DBS Checks

There are three types of DBS checks:

  1. Basic DBS Check: Any individual can apply for this check. It reveals unspent convictions.
  2. Standard DBS Check: Only registered employers can request this check, which includes both spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands, and warnings.
  3. Enhanced DBS Check: This is also available only to registered employers. It includes all the information from a standard check plus any additional information held by local police that is considered relevant to the role.

When to Use DBS Checks

If your business involves regulated activities, conducting DBS checks is crucial. These checks help prevent hiring individuals whose past convictions make them unsuitable for certain roles, especially those involving trust, responsibility, or access to sensitive information.

Fair and Lawful Use of DBS Checks

Employers must ensure that their use of DBS checks is both fair and lawful. It’s illegal to reject a candidate solely based on a spent conviction. Always follow the legal guidelines to avoid discrimination and ensure a fair hiring process.

How to Conduct a DBS Check

To conduct a DBS check:

  1. Choose a company from the list of “responsible organisations” on the gov.uk website.
  2. The chosen company will perform the check and inform you once it is complete.
  3. The applicant will receive a certificate by post, which you can then retain in their employment file.

Limitations of DBS Checks

While DBS checks are a valuable tool, they are not fool-proof. They should be used alongside other hiring considerations to ensure a well-rounded evaluation of potential employees.

Detailed Guide to DBS Checks for Employers

What is a DBS Check?

A DBS check is a detailed review of an individual’s criminal record, conducted by the Disclosure and Barring Service. This check helps employers make safer recruitment decisions by revealing any past criminal behaviour. It is an essential part of pre-employment screening, especially for roles involving vulnerable groups or positions of trust.

Why DBS Checks are Important

DBS checks serve multiple purposes:

  • Protecting Vulnerable Groups: Ensures that individuals with a history of harmful behaviour are not placed in positions where they could harm others.
  • Building Trust: Helps employers build trust with their clients and employees by ensuring they have done their due diligence.
  • Legal Compliance: For certain roles, it is a legal requirement to conduct a DBS check. Failing to do so can result in legal consequences.

Who Needs a DBS Check?

DBS checks are legally required for certain roles, including:

  • Healthcare Professionals: Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers.
  • Education: Teachers, teaching assistants, and other school staff.
  • Social Work: Social workers and support staff working with vulnerable individuals.
  • Childcare: Individuals working in nurseries, daycare centres, and other child-focused environments.
  • Volunteers: Those working with vulnerable groups often require DBS checks as well.

Types of DBS Checks

  1. Basic DBS Check:
  • Who Can Apply: Any individual.
  • What It Covers: Unspent convictions.
  • Typical Uses: Employers use this for roles not involving vulnerable groups but where integrity and trustworthiness are important.
  1. Standard DBS Check:
  • Who Can Apply: Registered employers.
  • What It Covers: Both spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands, and warnings.
  • Typical Uses: Positions of responsibility such as security personnel, financial roles, etc.
  1. Enhanced DBS Check:
  • Who Can Apply: Registered employers.
  • What It Covers: All information from a standard check, plus any additional information held by local police that is relevant to the role.
  • Typical Uses: Roles involving work with children or vulnerable adults, such as teachers, healthcare professionals, and social workers.

Process of Conducting a DBS Check

  1. Choosing a Responsible Organisation: Select a company from the list of approved organisations on the gov.uk website. These organisations are authorised to process DBS checks.
  2. Filling Out the Application: The employer or the applicant fills out the necessary forms, providing detailed information required for the check.
  3. Verification of Identity: The applicant must provide proof of identity, such as a passport or driving licence, and proof of address.
  4. Submission and Processing: The responsible organisation submits the application to the DBS, which processes the check.
  5. Receiving the Certificate: Once the check is complete, the applicant receives a certificate by post. The employer can request to see this certificate and keep a copy in the employee’s file.

Legal Considerations

Employers must use DBS checks in a fair and lawful manner. Key points to consider include:

  • Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974: It is illegal to discriminate against applicants based on spent convictions. Spent convictions are those that do not need to be disclosed after a certain period.
  • Data Protection: Employers must handle DBS information confidentially and in accordance with data protection laws.
  • Fair Use: Use the information obtained from DBS checks fairly. If an applicant has a criminal record, consider the nature of the offence, its relevance to the role, and the time elapsed since the offence occurred.

Best Practices for Using DBS Checks

  1. Develop a Clear Policy: Have a clear policy in place for when and how DBS checks are used. Ensure all employees and applicants are aware of this policy.
  2. Consistent Application: Apply the same criteria and process for all candidates to ensure fairness and avoid discrimination.
  3. Training: Train HR staff on the legal requirements and best practices for conducting and interpreting DBS checks.
  4. Review and Update: Regularly review and update your DBS check policies to stay compliant with any changes in the law.

Additional Resources

  • DBS Code of Practice: The DBS Code of Practice provides guidelines for registered bodies on the handling of DBS check information.
  • DBS Update Service: This service allows employers to check if there have been any changes to a DBS certificate. It’s particularly useful for roles that require regular checks.


DBS checks are an invaluable tool for employers, helping to ensure the safety and integrity of the workplace. By understanding the different types of checks, the legal requirements, and best practices, employers can make informed hiring decisions while staying compliant with UK laws.

For further information or assistance with DBS checks, feel free to contact us.

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