Can a ‘clean’ DBS be essential?

This case study involves an organisation that was recruiting a project officer.

We were passed details of the vacancy because, in the job description, it stated that “a clean disclosure and barring check is essential for this post.”

Naturally, we were stunned by this statement, as was the person who’d seen it; they had a very old conviction that would still show up on an enhanced check but that would have no bearing on their ability to do this particular job. We immediately got in touch with the organisation.

What’s wrong with this?

A statement like this fails to recognise that:

  • over 10 million people in the UK have a criminal record – this statement would effectively bar all of these from applying
  • many criminal records are old, minor and not relevant to the majority of job roles
  • the DBS Code of Practice requires organisations to discuss the content of an applicant’s criminal record before coming to a decision about withdrawing any offer of employment or whether to continue as planned.

To be fair to the organisation involved in this case, they quickly recognised their mistake. We spoke with them and provided their HR team with advice. We set out a number of steps that they could take to improve their advertisement. We went on to engage with them more broadly about steps that they could take to improve their recruitment practice more generally.


It seems this organisation had misunderstood their obligations. As the role was classed as ‘regulated activity’, they believed this to mean that they couldn’t employ people who had information on their DBS check. Instead, it was true to say they couldn’t employ anybody who was barred from working with vulnerable groups, but this only forms a small part of what can come back on a DBS disclosure. The reality was that it’s up to them as an employer to undertake as assessment if somebody has a criminal record revealed on a DBS disclosure.

And yet, a quick look online shows there are other examples still out there:


An example of a job advert on a recruitment agency website


Notes about this case study

Print Friendly, PDF & Email