Aim of this guidance
This guidance is designed to help you determine whether you need to carry out a criminal record check – also known as a DBS check. It explains the different levels of check and provides a step-by-step guide to working out eligibility.
Levels of check
Criminal record checks should only be carried out when necessary. Deciding whether a check is necessary or not will probably require input from the line manager as well as HR. Necessity will be determined by the duties and responsibilities of the role. The duties and responsibilities will help determine what level of check is necessary.
Key facts about basic checks:
Unlike standard and enhanced checks, there is no legal obligation to carry out a basic check. Recruiters can request a basic check for any role, provided they comply with GDPR requirements and identify the purpose, lawful basis and condition for processing the data.
Basic checks are commonly requested by
- the airline industry
- courier companies
- non-regulated financial service positions
Key facts about standard checks:
Roles eligible for standard checks are listed in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (Exceptions) Order 1975. They include:
- Security industry licence (on application for a licence to the Security Industry Authority)
- Solicitors and Barristers (on entry to profession)
- Chartered/certified accountant (on entry to profession)
- Veterinary surgeon (on entry to the profession)
- Financial Conduct Authority ‘approved person’ roles
Key facts about enhanced checks:
Types of roles that are eligible for an enhanced level of check are featured in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (Exceptions) Order 1975 and Police Act regulations. Roles that can involve enhanced checks include:
- Driving instructor
- Librarian (if expected to be involved in supervised teaching, training or instruction of children)
Enhanced with barred list check
Key facts about enhanced with barred list checks:
Types of roles that are eligible for an enhanced with barred list check are those classed as regulated activity. Common positions that can involve these checks includes:
- School teacher
- Care worker
- Social worker
- Ambulance driver
- School bus driver
What level of check is necessary?
The lists below are intended to provide a general guide to the types of roles that are eligible for different levels of check. The lists are not exhaustive and do not constitute legal advice. Employers are responsible for ensuring that their data collection – including criminal records data – complies with relevant laws.
Regulated activity is a phrase that refers to the majority of roles that involve enhanced plus barring checks.
In the meantime, there are some useful links below:
Jobs where eligibility is uncertain
Standard and enhanced checks should only be requested for roles that are exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. Eligibility for higher level checks depends on the duties the person will be carrying out rather than the job title. Employers sometimes misinterpret eligibility and request a higher level of check than what they’re legally allowed to do.
Examples of roles that are not generally eligible for higher level checks include:
- Working with the public – employers often interpret this as meaning the work involves working with children and vulnerable groups. The vast majority of people work ‘with the public’ in one way or another and that doesn’t necessarily equate to ‘working with children or vulnerable groups’.
- Entering homes – tradespeople (electricians, meter readers, plumbers) go into people’s homes on a one-off basis. These would normally be eligible for basic checks.
- University lecturers – see this example
- Office workers – see this example
- Charity workers – see this example
- Financial roles – most jobs in banks and financial services are not covered by the ‘approved person’ scheme overseen by the Financial Conduct Authority (and where a standard check can be carried out) – see this example
- HGV drivers – see this example
DBS code of practice
If you’re doing standard or enhanced checks, you need to make sure that you comply with the DBS code of practice
“Registered Bodies must:
- Use all reasonable endeavours to ensure that they only submit Criminal Records check applications in accordance with the legislative provisions which provide eligibility criteria for relevant positions or employment.
- Ensure that before allowing a DBS check application to be submitted they have assessed the role to be eligible under current legislation, correctly applied the right level of check, and correctly requested the appropriate barring list information.
- Ensure they are legally entitled to request any DBS product being applied for.”
If you’re a small employer using a registered body acting as an umbrella body, the code directly applies to the registered body, and they will place reliance on you to provide them with accurate information to comply with their obligations.
Step-by-step guide to working out eligibility
The level of check that you can carry out will vary depending on the particular role. You should be make clear what type of check you are entitled to request before you advertise the position (see our checklist for vacancies). Ideally, recruitment and line managers should be included in determining eligibility.
The duties and responsibilities of each role will determine what level of check – if any – is necessary. The following tips and tools will help you make decisions that are legally compliant and fair to applicants.
- Step 1 – Assume the ROA applies
- Step 2 – Consult the DBS guidance
- Step 3 – Use the DBS tool
- Step 4 – Read our eligibility guide
- Step 4 – Take advice from a registered body
- Step 5 – Take advice from the DBS
- Still not clear?
- Checks for overseas applicants
Step 1 – Assume the ROA applies
Step 2 – Consult the DBS guidance
The DBS maintains guidance on eligibility. This is regularly updated and links to their eligibility tool, below.
The guide provides details of positions that are eligible for standard or enhanced checks. It is not comprehensive and only gives an indication of the employments that are included in the Exceptions Order.
Step 3 – Use the DBS tool
The DBS have designed a tool to help you you work out the level of criminal record check you can legally request.
- It only covers roles in England & Wales
- It was made available in August 2016 and is still subject to feedback
- It doesn’t cover every role. Contact the DBS if you’re still not sure whether you can request a check.
Below are some images of the tool, showing:
- the landing page
- a results screen (1) showing eligibility for an enhanced with barred list check
- a results screen (2) showing no eligibility for a standard or enhanced check (and so eligible for a basic check)
Step 4 – Take advice from a registered body
If your organisation is a registered body, you should have skills and expertise within your organisation to advise on the relevant level of check for a particular role.
If you’re not a registered body, you’ll need to use a registered or ‘umbrella’ body to carry out standard or enhanced DBS checks. ‘Umbrella’ bodies means they conduct checks on behalf of smaller employers. In this situation, the employer is a ‘customer’ of the registered body, and it’s part of their role to provide advice on the level of check that can be done for a particular role. They have to make a legal declaration when submitting the application to the DBS, so they need to be sure the role is eligible.
Step 5 – Take advice from the DBS
You can contact DBS customer services for further information or if you’re not sure about what level of check you can carry out.
- by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- by telephone: 03000 200 190
Still not clear?
If you’re still not clear, you can send us the details. Although we cannot make decisions on your behalf, we can look into the reasons why you’ve not found an answer to what level of check you’re able to carry out, and provide advice and guidance.
Email the following to email@example.com:
- The organisation you work for
- The role you’re recruiting for (including a job description and responsibilities)
- The level of check you think the role can involve
- The result you received from using the DBS tool (and how you got to that result – what options did you choose?)
- The parts of the DBS guidance you think are most relevant
- The details of the response you’ve received from the registered body/umbrella body (if you’re not one yourself)
- The details of the response you’ve received from the DBS
Checks for overseas applicants
We plan to cover doing criminal record checks for overseas applicants in separate guidance. In the meantime, the Home Office has helpful guidance on who can apply, how to apply and contact details.
The DBS role in stopping ineligible checks
The DBS plays an important role in stopping ineligible checks.
Between March 2012 and February 2014, the DBS had written to counter signatories on 3,311 occasions under the Ineligible Applications Process, and 1,385 applications were subsequently not completed (42%).
Don’t just do the right check – explain it too
Too often, employers are unclear in their adverts about the level of check
Good practice tips
- When you’re advertising for a particular position, the specific level of check should be made clear in the advertisement and vacancy details.
- Follow our step-by-step guide if you’re not sure about the eligibility of a particular position.
Examples of bad practice
To illustrate why this guidance is important, we’ve included some examples where practice could (and should) be improved.
- The DBS online tool – Find out if you can check someone’s criminal record
- The DBS guidance on eligibility for DBS checks
- Our report on ineligible checks and why they matter – Checked out
- There is more information about carrying out criminal record checks, which forms part of the practical guidance section of Recruit!
- For further advice about this guidance, please contact us.
Has this been useful?
You can let us know by:
- Writing a comment on this page (see below)
- Sending your feedback directly to us
- Emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Is there anything wrong with this guidance? Let us know – email email@example.com.