Misleading application process and potentially ineligible DBS checks

This case involves an organisation that recruits couriers.

We were contacted by an individual who was in the process of applying for a job as a self-employed neighbourhood courier. As part of the online application form, the organisation involved had stated that:

“l will ask you to provide a current DBS check (formally CRB). Please confirm you would be in agreement with this?”

The individual was confused as he was under the impression that he would not be able to get a copy of his own DBS check. Also, he was unsure as to what he should disclose about his criminal record and whether he should provide any details on the application form. His criminal record was now spent and so didn’t need to be disclosed for most jobs, but those that involve DBS checks involve the disclosure of spent convictions too.

We explained that from the job description provided, the role would only be eligible for a basic check which the individual would be able to apply for himself through Disclosure Scotland.

We were unsure what the situation with the organisation was:

  • Perhaps they didn’t fully understand that the DBS only carried out standard and enhanced checks whilst Disclosure Scotland did basic ones?
  • Perhaps they were unsure which checks they would be eligible to undertake for this job role?
  • Could they be intending to carry out an ineligible check?

We took the decision to contact the organisation concerned.

We wrote to them setting out the differences between basic, standard and enhanced disclosure checks and the details of the organisations undertaking them. We also provided them with an outline of what would make a role eligible for a standard or enhanced DBS check and suggested that in our opinion, the role of a self-employed neighbourhood courier, would only involve a basic level check

We confirmed that organisations that didn’t provide clear guidance to applicants as to the level of check being undertaken could:

  • Cause confusion amongst applicants about whether they need to disclose or not.
  • Mean that people with offences that don’t need to be disclosed may be put off from applying because they believe they’re being asked to disclose them.
  • Lead to an applicant disclosing more information than necessary, running the risk that an organisation takes into account something that they’re not legally allowed to consider.

We suggested the organisation consider setting out the specific level of criminal record check that they would be undertaking for each job role. This could possibly be linked to some guidance which would allow an applicant to work out whether their conviction was spent or not.

We set out some possible wording they could consider for their online application form and provided them with details of websites that they could link applicants to at the time they were asked to disclose any unspent convictions.

Within a couple of weeks one of the company’s HR managers contacted us to confirm that they had considered the information we had provided and had changed their online question to now read:

“[……..] will ask you to complete a current basic criminal record check. Please confirm that you would be in agreement with this?”



This case showed how even companies that have quite large HR departments can still be confused about criminal record checks – which organisations undertake them, what they disclose and which roles are eligible for which type of checks.


Notes about this case study

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