Recruitment Background Checks – Can You Use a DBS Check?

Getting your recruitment process right is a vital part of building a strong team that contributes to your business’s success. While it’s true that the recruitment process can be labour intensive, especially for small businesses where time and resources are tight, in the long run, thorough due diligence in the early stages of the hiring process will more than pay off.

This is where running a background check before you hire someone can make the world of difference: it prevents any surprises down the line and gives you more peace of mind in your hiring decisions. That’s why DBS checks are increasingly popular – in some industries they’re even mandatory.

The best part? It’s simple, quick and is relatively inexpensive. Most applications only take five minutes and in some cases, checks can be completed with results ready to view online in an hour. And while you might not be able to use them for every role, it’s worth checking if the position you’re looking to fill qualifies for one of the three levels of checks.

So, What Is A DBS Check?

A DBS check reveals whether a candidate has a criminal record or any warnings or reprimands. The process is conducted by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), a public body that’s part of the UK Home Office.

There are three types to choose from:

  1. Basic

Basic DBS checks reveal any unspent convictions (usually recent or serious). They’re not legally required but they can be used to make your recruitment process more thorough. You can ask candidates to provide their own Basic Check or you can request one on their behalf with their consent.

  1. Standard

A Standard or Enhanced check is most often required in jobs where the individual will be working with children or vulnerable adults – positions such as teachers, social workers, carers, medical professionals and any job that involves working with children. This check must be done through the employer because the applicant’s role must be on the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions Order 1975) in order to be eligible. This check (and the Enhanced) will detail both spent and unspent convictions.

  1. Enhanced

To qualify for an Enhanced check, the role must appear on both the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions Order 1975) and the Police Act 1997. If the role requires an ‘Enhanced check with list’ the results will show if the applicant’s name is on either the adult or the children’s barred list.

Enhanced checks expand on Standard disclosures and include any additional information the local police consider to be relevant to the application.

How To Do A DBS Check:

Employers can apply for DBS checks through a Responsible Organisation who will sort out the application process for them. A list of Responsible Organisations is available on

There are also companies who specialise in helping you make the right decisions from both a business and legal standpoint. These services, known as an umbrella body, can assist you with the entire process of running the right checks on potential employees, rather than dealing directly with the Disclosure and Barring Service.

What Do I Need To Get Started?

Permission: In most cases, as an employer, you’ll be applying on behalf of the candidate. To check the status of a DBS online you must have the individual’s permission.

Details: Have you got all the applicant’s details? DBS checks require the individual to provide their current and previous addresses, name changes, nationality, place of birth etc.

Identification: Have you checked which route the applicant will be taking and which identification documents you’re required to check?

What About When I Get The Results Back?

Results: A ‘clear’ result or ‘no result’ on a Standard or Enhanced check means the individual doesn’t have a criminal record. For a Basic check, the applicant may still have spent convictions that they do not have to disclose.

Data Protection: Be sure to handle all the information you get in line with the obligations under the Data Protection Act 1998.

Bringing someone new into a company will not only affect your clients and customers, but it can also impact the relationships and the wellbeing of your current employees. So it’s essential that you do all you can to make as informed a decision as possible. In some cases, it is a legal requirement to run a DBS check, and it’s a recruiter’s responsibility to know if a check is mandatory, and which type they can request.

Taking the time to get the relevant background information on your candidates can do a great deal to help you avoid problems down the line. And you’ll enjoy the confidence of knowing that you’ve done everything in your power to protect your company, your customers and your staff.

You may be interested in: “Should Workplaces Conduct Background Checks?”