An Employer’s Complete Guide to DBS Checks in the UK

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Financial Hiring Trends Report of 2023

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks are a core element for thousands of employers across the UK, forming an essential part of their background screening programme. A key reason for this is that they help make safer hiring selections, and in some industries and lines of work, they are mandated by regulatory bodies or legislation. Depending on the level of check required which will be explored in this article, there are varying requirements to satisfy for some DBS check applications depending on the sector and the kind of the position being applied for. We’ll discuss who the DBS are, what a DBS check is and why it’s important, as well as the varying levels of a DBS check and how they differ. 

DBS: What does it mean?

The Disclosure and Barring Service, commonly known as DBS, is a "public executive non-departmental agency, sponsored by the Home Office." The service is responsible for completing and distributing checks, enabling recruiters to make safer hiring selections. Previously, its name was the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB). DBS checks are also often referred to as a criminal record check, a criminal history check or a basic, standard and enhanced disclosure. 

What is a DBS Check?

An official record detailing a person's criminal record is a DBS check. They help firms make more informed hiring decisions - to select the best candidates during the hiring process. It can also be particularly beneficial for employers to identify qualified applicants that work with vulnerable populations, such as children, in this case, an additional layer of protection may be required, and could come in the form of an enhanced DBS check.  

The three levels of a DBS check 

There are three levels of DBS checks: basic, standard, and enhanced. It's important to have an awareness of these varying levels to ensure candidates receive a sufficient level of screening for the role they are applying for. A trusted screening partner like Veremark can provide best practice considerations and guidance to help.  

Basic DBS Check

Anyone in England and Wales can obtain a basic DBS check, whether an individual is employed or is applying for a position -  this is considered the first level of screening. A basic DBS check shows whether an applicant has any unspent convictions or conditional cautions. A conviction is considered ‘spent’ after a certain period of time has passed.  Employers in all industries can request a basic disclosure to look into a candidate's criminal history and determine whether they are suitable for a position. A basic DBS check may also be required to get a visa or a personal alcohol license, it’s also commonplace in voluntary positions.  However, it’s important to consider an increased level of DBS check may be required with increased responsibility. 

Standard DBS Check

A more extensive criminal background check known as a standard DBS check is conducted by employers on behalf of candidates to make sure they are qualified for the position in question. This level displays details on any spent or unspent convictions, cautions, final warnings or reprimands the applicant has. For jobs of high responsibility, such as those held by attorneys and accountants, the Standard DBS check may be required. A person can be eligible for a standard DBS check if they are undertaking a role listed in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA) 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975. This details numerous positions, professionals, licenses and activities that fall under this. 

Enhanced DBS Check

Similar to the standard DBS check, this must be requested by the employer on the applicant’s behalf. Also, the role must also be listed in the ROA. All the information from a conventional DBS check is included in an enhanced DBS check, for example spent or unspent convictions, cautions, warnings or reprimands an applicant may have - as well as any other relevant details held by the applicant's local police force. A potential or current employee's status on the Children's Barred List or Adult First list can also be checked by an employer with an enhanced check. This means that a potential employee is not prohibited from working with vulnerable populations, but it can only be required if the applicant or employee will be engaged in a regulated activity. The majority of positions in education and healthcare require the enhanced DBS check. 

A Comparison and Summary of the 3 Types: Basic, Standard, and Enhanced DBS Checks

Depending on the daily responsibilities of the candidate’s role, an employer must decide which sort of DBS check you need. A trusted partner such as Veremark, can provide best practice and guidance on the level of check or package required. If the employer wishes to assess the candidate's character or if the candidate is self-employed, a basic DBS check may be required. However, in fields where security and legal matters are required, standard DBS checks are frequently requested. Then, when it comes to enhanced DBS checks, they are common in positions working with vulnerable people such as children or the elderly.

Another key distinction between basic and standard DBS checks is that there is no restriction on who can seek a basic DBS check. An individual requesting their own criminal history check may seek a basic DBS check. To request a standard DBS check, a candidate must, however, be eligible legally and fulfill the DBS requirements as we mentioned before. Standard DBS checks must be requested on the applicants' behalf by a company or organization.

The standard DBS check does not reveal any further police information, nor does it verify the person's name against the ISA Children or Adults' Banned Lists which is in contrast to the depth an enhanced DBS check can go. Typically because of this a basic DBS check is quicker than an enhanced DBS check.

Is a DBS Check Required Before Obtaining a Personal License?

Looking into the process of  obtaining a personal license? A personal license is required if you own or wish to manage a bar, pub, or club where alcohol is served. These permits are intended for those responsible for facilities providing alcohol to customers in a professional manner. If you are planning a one-time event where alcohol will be sold, you might also need to apply for a personal license. However, you must go through an application process before receiving your personal license. You will be required to acquire a Basic DBS Check, a criminal history check conducted by the Disclosure and Barring Service, as part of this process (DBS).

How to Conduct a DBS Check to a Candidate Who is Based Abroad or is an International Employee?

When you consider the rise of the remote workers and the impact of the pandemic on the changes to the workforce, an increasing number of  organizations are hiring abroad  - therefore the check procedure may be different from how it is for applicants who reside in the UK. DBS is unable to provide access to criminal records overseas, and cannot provide an overview of an applicant’s criminal record if they have lived outside of the UK. In this case, while the DBS may not provide international criminal records, there are many options available for employers -  the UK government has provided guidance on the application process for criminal records checks overseas.  It’s important to note, you should still run a DBS check on anyone you plan to hire who formerly resided in the UK but is now living abroad. 

In addition to this, through Veremark’s automated service - employers are able to run criminal record checks in the majority of countries using one platform, and if a criminal record check is  not available - we’re also able to provide the next best available option such as a global sanctions check.

Why is Safer Hiring so Crucial?

Making sure that those who work with vulnerable individuals are qualified for the position is one of the most crucial aspects of safeguarding. Much of this will be decided during the interview process, when it will be determined whether or not the candidate possesses the necessary traits for the position. This doesn't go far enough, though. Some people may have a criminal past that suggests they would not be appropriate for dealing with particular groups of people. Safer recruitment policies demand that this be verified in advance. DBS checks are a way for workers to confirm that their employers are doing all possible to recruit the right candidates.

Conclusion: The Importance and Impact of DBS Checks to Your Organization

11 million individuals in the UK have some sort of criminal record, yet 50% of employers say they would never hire an ex-offender, according to YouGov figures. If a simple DBS check reveals that your candidate has a criminal history, it's crucial to learn about the nature of the offense, and mainly whether the offense's are relevant to the position. This should be assessed on a case by case basis. During the hiring process, many candidates may be afraid to disclose their criminal histories, which is natural given how reluctant businesses are to hire them.

However, safety is the most crucial aspect of the DBS check. Organizations cannot afford to disregard the risks when you are hiring. Employing someone with a criminal history that comprises their position or a propensity for abuse puts lives at danger. Additionally, it's crucial to make sure that all of your present employees receive some level of rescreening so you can guarantee the security of your workforce, customers and partners - even more so, if they are children and individuals who are more vulnerable. 

Employers can learn about a candidate's or current employee's criminal background by conducting DBS checks. While determining a person's suitability for the job is the primary goal of DBS Checks, you should constantly be aware of how stakeholders may be impacted. How do you want your community to perceive you? Your approach to DBS Checks must go beyond simply fulfilling contractual responsibilities or regulatory criteria if you want to be perceived as caring. It is more significant than you or your staff.


What background check do I need?

This depends on the industry and type of role you are recruiting for. To determine whether you need reference checks, identity checks, bankruptcy checks, civil background checks, credit checks for employment or any of the other background checks we offer, chat to our team of dedicated account managers.

Why should employers check the background of potential employees?

Many industries have compliance-related employment check requirements. And even if your industry doesn’t, remember that your staff have access to assets and data that must be protected. When you employ a new staff member you need to be certain that they have the best interests of your business at heart. Carrying out comprehensive background checking helps mitigate risk and ensures a safer hiring decision.

How long do background checks take?

Again, this depends on the type of checks you need. Simple identity checks can be carried out in as little as a few hours but a worldwide criminal background check for instance might take several weeks. A simple pre-employment check package takes around a week. Our account managers are specialists and can provide detailed information into which checks you need and how long they will take.

Can you do a background check online?

All Veremark checks are carried out online and digitally. This eliminates the need to collect, store and manage paper documents and information making the process faster, more efficient and ensures complete safety of candidate data and documents.

What are the benefits of a background check?

In a competitive marketplace, making the right hiring decisions is key to the success of your company. Employment background checks enables you to understand more about your candidates before making crucial decisions which can have either beneficial or catastrophic effects on your business.

What does a background check show?

Background checks not only provide useful insights into a candidate’s work history, skills and education, but they can also offer richer detail into someone’s personality and character traits. This gives you a huge advantage when considering who to hire. Background checking also ensures that candidates are legally allowed to carry out certain roles, failed criminal and credit checks could prevent them from working with vulnerable people or in a financial function.

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