An Employer’s Complete Guide to DBS Checks in the UK: the 2023 update

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You may already be familiar with the importance of DBS checks and your responsibility as an employer to carry them out. But just as important is staying updated on DBS regulations.The types of DBS checks & the processes associated with each aren’t static. The DBS updates them to increase the standards of safety for and among all workers and employers in the UK. Over the last few months, such updates have been made and are now in force.

Let’s review the basics of DBS checks, and touch upon the changes that have been made to DBS processes so far this 2023. 

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?

A DBS check is an official document detailing a person's criminal record. DBS checks are a core element for thousands of employers across the UK, forming an essential part of their background screening programme. These checks help employers make safer and more informed hiring decisions. In some industries and lines of work, they are mandated by regulatory bodies or legislation. 

If, for example, a particular role requires the candidate to work with vulnerable populations, such as children, an additional layer of security may be required prior to hiring them. This could come in the form of an enhanced DBS check.  

The four levels of a DBS check 

As of 2023, there are four levels of DBS checks:

  1. Basic
  2. Standard
  3. Enhanced
  4. Enhanced with Barred List Check

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 for roles with greater 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 is eligible for a standard DBS check if they are undertaking a role listed in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA) 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975.

In April of this year, the ROA 1974 (Exceptions) (Amendment) (England and Wales) Order 2023 was approved in Parliament. This amendment has extended the list of roles eligible for a standard DBS check as a minimum requirement, particularly in the areas of fire and rescue, accountancy, justice system intermediaries, and notaries public services in England and Wales.

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. 

Enhanced DBS Check with Barred List Check

This check provides the same information as the enhanced DBS check, and in addition, notifies whether the candidate is on any barred list.

Barred lists are databases or lists of individuals that have previously been banned from working with vulnerable populations - children or vulnerable adults - because of past offences they have committed. The DBS compiles and maintains the barred lists. If a person’s name appears on a barred list, they are disqualified from taking on any role that involves working with vulnerable populations.

This enhanced check with barred list check is now required for certain positions in education and healthcare where candidates will be engaged in regulated activity with children or vulnerable adults over certain periods of time: at least once a week, overnight, or for four days within a 30-day period.

A Comparison and Summary of the 4 Types: Basic, Standard, Enhanced, and Enhanced with Barred List 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 and enhanced with barred list 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 on the other hand 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.

How to Conduct a DBS Check for 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. It is always better to go the extra mile though, when it comes to security. Some people may have a criminal past that suggests they would not be appropriate for dealing with particular groups of people within your industry. Safer recruitment policies demand that this be verified in advance. DBS checks by employers are a way for workers in their organization to confirm that they are doing all they can to recruit the right candidates.

Conclusion: The Importance and Impact of DBS Checks on 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 would be to hire them.

However, maintaining safety is the most critical reason for carrying out DBS checks by employers. Organizations cannot afford to disregard the risks when hiring. Employing someone with a criminal history that compromises their position, or allows for potential abuse, puts lives in real danger. 

Additionally, it's crucial to make sure that all of your present employees receive some level of rescreening over time, so you can guarantee the continued security of your workforce, customers, and partners.

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 also constantly be aware of how your business’ stakeholders may be impacted. Your approach to DBS Checks must go beyond simply fulfilling contractual responsibilities or regulatory criteria. It is a show of true caring as a responsible organization and employer.

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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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State of Hiring and Background Checks Discrepancies

Veremark’s 2022 Annual Report is based on the background check data collected from over 100,000 checks from companies and professionals across 6 countries and 5 key industries last year.

This report focuses on the state of hiring and background check discrepancies and is an essential guide to all recruiters and HR professionals conducting hires, background checks and onboarding in 2022.

In this report, we discuss:  

  • What areas and factors can Background Checks discover?  
  • Where did the findings come from by country and sector?
  • Discrepancies by top 5 sectors
    • Fintech and Financial Services      
    • HR, Staffing and Recruiting      
    • Technology and Software      
    • Professional Services      
    • Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)
  • Discrepancies by top 6 countries
    • Estonia      
    • Singapore      
    • United Kingdom      
    • Australia & New Zealand      
    • India      
    • Philippines
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