Background Screening: Frequently Asked Questions
In the UK, background screening usually refers to criminal record searches and checks that are carried out by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).
It is usually employers that request an individual to complete a DBS check application, but also voluntary organisations and other unpaid community services may ask for them too, especially if the role involves working with children or vulnerable adults.
What Is A DBS Check?
A DBS check involves searching through a person’s criminal record on the Police National Computer database and detailing any recorded offences and convictions, then producing a list of any details on a DBS certificate.
DBS checks are arranged into three different levels – basic, standard, and enhanced, with an extra barred list check option available for the Enhanced DBS Check. Any role that is defined as a regulated activity by the DBS will require the highest level check which is the Enhanced DBS Check with barred list check.
Why Do Employers Run Background Checks?
Employers carry out background checks such as DBS checks as they are a useful way to assess whether somebody is trustworthy or not. DBS checks are usually used for roles that have moderate to high levels of responsibility, so employers want to make sure that they have the best possible people working in those positions.
There is also the safeguarding element. Employers that hire people for roles that involve contact with children or vulnerable adults have a legal duty to vet people thoroughly and run thorough background screening.
What Are The Different Types of DBS Check?
There are 3 main levels of DBS check – basic, standard, and enhanced. Let’s take a look at each type, what they search for, and what kind of roles they are suitable for.
Basic DBS Check
The Basic DBS Check is the lowest level of check and searches through a person’s criminal record and returns details on any unspent convictions only.
The Basic DBS check is used for low to moderate responsibility roles that don’t have any safeguarding requirements, such as shop worker, cashier, cleaner, maintenance worker, etc. Any individual or employer can request a Basic DBS Check.
Standard DBS Check
The Standard DBS Check is a medium level background check that scans through a person’s criminal record and highlights unspent and spent convictions, warnings, reprimands, and cautions.
The Standard DBS Check is typically used for moderate to high responsibility roles that don’t involve working in direct contact with children or vulnerable adults, such as accountants, bankers, financial advisors, lawyers, etc.
The individual cannot submit a DBS check themselves, they must fill in the application, provide ID, then get it verified and submitted by the employer or a registered third party.
Enhanced DBS Check
The Enhanced DBS Check is the highest level of background screening check and it searches for and returns details of spent and unspent convictions, warnings, reprimands, and cautions, as well as any other relevant notes about the individual’s criminal past that appear in local police files.
Enhanced DBS Checks are most commonly used for high responsibility jobs, or those that involve direct contact with vulnerable groups, such as teachers, doctors, nurses, childminders, social workers, etc.
If the role is a safeguarding-critical one (i.e. it involves working in direct, unsupervised contact with children or vulnerable adults), then a barred list check must be carried out too.
The Enhanced DBS Check must be submitted by the employer or registered third party.
How Long Does It Take To Process A DBS Check?
The time taken to process a DBS check and return a DBS certificate depends on the region that the person lives in, the number of offences on file, and the level of DBS check that is being requested.
In general, Standard and Enhanced DBS Checks take around 24 to 48 hours to process from the date the application form is received, but it can take between 7 to 14 days on average to receive the result and certificate.
A Basic DBS Check should also take around 24 to 48 hours to process and the result and certificate is usually returned within 5 to 7 days.
On some rare occasions, it can take three weeks or longer to receive a DBS certificate due to backlogs or problems with the application. If you have waited three weeks and still have not received your DBS certificate, you should contact the DBS and query it.
Do All Employers Need To Carry Out Background Screening?
Background screening such as DBS checks are a legal requirement for some employers and organisations, but not all of them.
While it is true that most employers would benefit from running some kind of background screening on all of their staff and applicants, it is only a legal requirement for jobs that have a safeguarding element, i.e. working directly with children or vulnerable adults.
For some job roles, there are governing bodies involved (the CQC and OFSTED, for example), that mandate the completion of DBS checks for employees in certain roles. For instance, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) states that people working in the financial industry should complete a Standard DBS Check if they carry out “controlled functions” (roles that have regulatory significance, such as financial advisors, accountants, and directors).
Which Professions Often Or Always Require Background Checks?
Background screening is most commonly practised in the following industries and sectors:
- Social work
- Childminding or childcare
- Computers and IT
Most professional jobs these days ask for a minimum of a Standard DBS Check, and those that involve working with vulnerable adults or children will require an Enhanced DBS Check.
How Do Employers Benefit From Background Screening?
The details contained within a DBS check helps the employer or organisation to make an informed choice about how they choose to hire.
Here are a few ways in which DBS checks help employers, they show that the individual:
- Is not likely to be a threat to young people or vulnerable adults
- Can probably be trusted to handle money in a trustworthy fashion
- Is likely to be able to care for the elderly or infirm without posing a risk
- Is most likely able to work in a professional way without damaging the business or organisation.
What Information Is Revealed In A DBS Check?
When it comes to background screening with a DBS check, a common question is – what data and information gets highlighted in the DBS certificate?
The DBS check only reveals the information listed above in the different types of DBS check section. In other words, it reveals different types of convictions, depending on the level of check.
The information revealed on the DBS certificate will help the employer to make sure that what the person wrote on their application form or CV is true and verifiably correct. Anyone that tries to mislead the employer by covering up past misdeeds will be shown up. This helps the employer to rest assured that they are hiring the best-suited people for the role.
Some of the offences and convictions that may show up on a DBS check are as follows:
- Sexual offences
- Violent crime such as grievous or actual bodily harm
- Common assaults
- Drug-related crimes
- Safeguarding offences
- Drunk and disorderly offences
- Serious or habitual motoring offences
For How Long Does A DBS Certificate Remain Valid?
A DBS certificate is only valid on the date of issue. In other words, there is no official expiry date for a DBS check, regardless of the level.
The reason for this is simple. The DBS check is just a single snapshot of a person’s criminal record on the day of processing. Therefore, any offences that are committed after that will not appear on the certificate.
In other words, a person may commit a crime and be arrested the day after being issued a DBS certificate, and it won’t show up. For this reason, many employers and organisations request that employees update their DBS check every two to three years.
Can Anybody Submit A DBS Check?
The only level of DBS check that allows anybody to submit it, employer or individual, is the basic one.
When it comes to Standard or Enhanced DBS Checks, only the employer or registered third party can verify and submit the application.
How Do I Get A DBS Check?
These days, you can apply for DBS checks online, through a processing system such as ours. You simply fill in the form, upload the relevant ID documents, and submit the form digitally. Our service includes a full check of the form to highlight any errors.
If you would like to find out more about DBS checks, get in touch with one of our expert team members today.