What type of criminal record check can I do on an applicant?
  • Any employment position can be subject to a basic criminal record check.
  • Only certain positions can involve a standard, enhanced or enhanced with barred list criminal record check.
  • It is a criminal offence to knowingly submit an application which is not eligible.
  • People with spent convictions do not have to disclose them for most jobs, and they won’t be disclosed on basic criminal record checks.
  • People with spent convictions will normally need to disclose when applying for roles that involve standard or enhanced criminal record checks as they’ll usually be disclosed on these levels of checks (unless they are filtered).
  • More information: Doing the correct level of criminal record check [Detailed guidance]
Who oversees the criminal record check process?
  • There are a number of organisations and agencies involved
  • For employers, the main organisations are the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS, formerly CRB) and Disclosure Scotland
  • More information: Disclosure and Barring Service [Information]
Am I allowed to ask an applicant to get a copy of their police record?
  • No. Police records are not the same as a criminal record check. Police records are protected under the Data Protection Act.
  • If you ask an applicant to get a copy of their police record, this could be seen as an ‘enforced subject access’ which is a criminal offence under the Data Protection Act.
  • More information: Police records and enforced subject access requests [Detailed guidance]
Can I check up on someone’s past by looking online to decide whether to hire them or not?
  • In this country, official criminal records are not openly available on the internet.
  • Newspapers and websites will often publish articles about offences and convictions, including naming the individuals involved, and these can be searched online.
  • Sometimes companies will ‘do a search online’ on someone they’re thinking of offering a job to someone. This needs to be approached with caution. Media reports are not always accurate, they don’t necessarily get updated, and they are based on limited information. For example, it may not be the person you think it is, or the conviction may have since been overturned or the sentence reduced. The information you find could now be spent.
  • Checking what you can find online is far from comprehensive and so could never be properly relied upon as a part of the recruitment process. Official criminal record checks are the only way to properly check the criminal history of an applicant.
When might it be appropriate to check what can be found online about an applicant?
  • You might build in an internet search into your process for new employees as part of your risk management process. Critically, this wouldn’t be about finding out information that influences a hiring decision, but rather to try and understand what information colleagues and others might be able to find out. This enables you to plan and manage the risk appropriately. For example, you might decide to advise the individual to use a different name at work.