Undergoing Criminal Checks in the UK

Carrying out background criminal checks for prospective employees is now quite common. This has gained more importance because of restrictions on employment after Brexit among other causes.

Just after Brexit, there was a long delay in hiring staff due to Covid of almost 2 years with most working from home. It made it infeasible for background checks which lead to many fraud cases. Therefore, once employment was resumed with regular working in offices it led to a rise in the proliferation of criminal background checks.

criminal checks

Since data protection laws have become more stringent with the risk of getting sued for breach of privacy even vacancies that once required no background checks need them now. Generally, it is just basic checks unless the employee is in contact with a regulated group for which standard/enhanced checks are needed. While normally it was completed in 2-3 days it now takes longer because of the rush for background checks.

The Process of DBS Checks

DBS checks also commonly called CRB checks refer to the former department at the Home Office that maintained criminal records of the UK before they were digitised. Consequently, a vacancy may advertise for a position needing an Enhanced CRB Check which would refer to an Enhanced DBS check.

The CRB was substituted by the PNB which now keeps all the criminal records on its database. In 2012, there was a merger between the ISA and the CRB that formed the DBS. The purpose of the merger was to safeguard vulnerable groups’ rights and also those of criminals under the ROA so that the latter was not discriminated against based on spent convictions for employment (if the convictions were not relevant to the post).

Basic Checks

There are three kinds of DBS checks with the Basic check the easiest and done by an individual themself if they are 16 years and above.  It includes submitting a personal id, national insurance number and address for the past 5 years.  Upon submission, a DBS should be issued within 48 hours. A basic check only shows unspent convictions that have any penalty attached to them.

Standard and Enhanced Checks

These are asked for by a responsible organisation/ prospective employer. An RO is a third party that has a licence to conduct these checks with a minimum number of such checks done by them annually. Both a standard and enhanced check must meet ROA requirements as they reveal detailed information including spent convictions.

A delayed DBS check is called Stage Four and could be due to various reasons including a change of address. Those that need Enhanced checks will also require vetting against the Barred List if their job includes coming in contact with vulnerable adults or children. Access to the barred list needs special permission and must meet ROA guidelines.

Tracking Services

Those individuals seeking information about their application can visit the DBS tracking service. After all, the requirements are fulfilled and initial processing is done a reference number is issued. It is for an applicant’s DBS Certificate.  Those getting basic DBS checks can check their own online DBS account via the link.

After verification, the individual can check the stage or certificate online. For standard or enhanced checks, the link takes them to the DBS tracking service accessible to an individual, prospective employer or responsible organisation once certain details are supplied.

Webchat Service

From April 2000 a live DBS webchat service is launched from Mondays to Fridays (10 am to 4 pm). It appears as a pop-up on the Government DBS site. However, it is only for general info and does not include information about individual applicants. It was started to reduce the burden of general enquiry calls received by the regular DBS staff.