DBS checks – some changes that came into effect this year (updated Sept 2018)


I’ve noticed on a couple of discussion threads in a couple of LinkedIn groups several people are getting confused when talking about DBS checks and who and who can’t do them. I did a post previously on DBS checks and Overseas Police Checks,

In September 2017, the DBS started processing basic criminal record check applications for a small number of registered organisations with the intention to process from all organisations at a later date. Individuals were able to request Basic Checks from the 17th January 2018.

The first phase was a transition from the service operated by Disclosure Scotland.  This means that Basic checks are no longer available from Disclosure Scotland to applicants in England & Wales. This came about as the legislation regarding the Rehabilitation of Offenders is different in Scotland than it is to England & Wales. The cost of using the DBS online service is £25 if using a DBS checking company the cost could be around £45.

Because of this change, it is really important to understand the differences between the different checks and who can and can’t apply for them!

  • Basic DBS – available to individuals, some providers can show an online version. Basic checks show any ‘unspent’ criminal records as defined by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. Once a conviction or caution is ‘spent’, it no longer shows on a basic check as it is filtered.
  • Standard DBS – A standard check shows unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings. Any spent convictions should be filtered.
  • Enhanced DBS – An enhanced check shows the same as a standard check plus any information held by local police that’s considered relevant to the role
  • Enhanced DBS with barred lists. An enhanced check with barred lists shows the same as an enhanced check plus whether the applicant is on the list of people barred from doing the role

The standard and enhanced checks are only available to registered organisations and there are stiff penalties for those that try to abuse the system. There is nothing stopping an employer in asking to see a Basic DBS, however, the company should have a written statement on the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.

Remember DATA PROTECTION do not under any circumstances make or store any copies of ANY DBS check.

One thing I would caution with all DBS especially those online is sometimes there is an error where spent convictions are disclosed by mistake, for example, cautions. Remember if it is spent then you cannot consider it! Since 2013 DBS checks have been filtering spent convictions & cautions. It is illegal for an employer to consider filtered (spent) convictions and cautions and there are data protection issues and consequences if an employer gets this wrong!

Cautions become spent after 6 years (2 years for persons under 18) and 11 years ( 5½ for persons under 18) for minor convictions. Any conviction of over four years custody will never be spent.

Convictions such as Actual Bodily Harm (ABH) and Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH) will always show up on a DBS check.

I’ve covered Oversea’s Police Checks before, but will briefly cover the main points.

  • DBS checks only cover the individual for the time they have been within the UK, they will not show up any convictions or cautions received in a foreign country
  • There is no mechanism in the UK at present time for Employers being able to apply for Oversea’s Police Checks. The individual has to apply in person at a police station in the country they were residing in. Therefore this will need to be done before they move to the UK.
  • OPC’s will nearly always be written in the language of the country they were issued in, so will need to be translated. The cost of an OPC is normally not that expensive but it can be having them translated where the expense comes in!
  • The OPS and its translation will need to be verified and validated (additional cost).

Update: September 2018

One change that has occurred with regards to Overseas Police Checks is that one umbrella/checking company, Security Watchdog (part of Capita DBS) is now able to process overseas police checks. If you recruit a lot from overseas then this may be a good option to consider, if you recruit infrequently from overseas then it may be worth weighing up the costs of using an umbrella company against processing yourself.

DBS check eligibility tool

NHS Employers have released an online DBS eligibility tool that will help NHS Trusts and contractors determine whether employees need a DBS check. I know from applying for a position with an NHS Trust in the past that you can be given the wrong information, for example, I was told I would need to have a standard DBS check undertaken when it wasn’t the case! The tool can be found at DBS Eligibility Checking Tool


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HR Professional, interests include HR Metrics, Workforce Analytics

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