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Do I need to carry out DBS checks on my employees?

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It is necessary for some roles for an employer to have a full picture of the employee’s criminal background, but this is not true for all professions; you will need to decide if a voluntary disclosure is sufficient for the role, or if an official criminal records check is required if a DBS check is not already required by law. Here our Employment Team explains the varying disclosures that may be required, the types of DBS checks available and how you can ascertain whether a DBS check is needed by law. 

There are two types of disclosure which you can ask for in relation to criminal convictions of employees. These are:

  1. Voluntary disclosure, which is usually done through the recruitment process by asking candidates to disclose information regarding criminal convictions.
  2. Official criminal records checks through the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

You may choose to ask a candidate about their criminal record through voluntary disclosure, however there are drawbacks in relying solely on voluntary disclosure as the employee may dishonestly claim to have a clean record or may fail to disclose a relevant conviction. DBS checks should therefore be obtained where applicable.

There are three types of DBS checks which are as follows:

  1. A basic check - showing any unspent convictions and conditional cautions.
  2. A standard check - showing spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings.
  3. An enhanced check – showing the same as a standard check but this also includes information held by local police which may be considered relevant to the role.

As part of the enhanced check, there is an option to also request whether the individual is on the list of people barred from doing the role e.g. if a person is barred from working with vulnerable adults. You should carry out DBS checks where the work being applied for is listed in the Police Act 1997 or in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

DBS checks should also be carried out if you have volunteer workers or workers in certain positions of trust, including those working with vulnerable adults or children. If the role is listed under the Exemptions Order your employee will be required to undergo a standard or enhanced check. The Exemptions Order is a list of roles or professions where it has been deemed necessary that individuals must disclose spent and unspent convictions.

The DBS service has produced a useful guide as to which roles require a DBS check and which level of check is appropriate.  You can find the list here.

You can insist that your employees have at least a basic DBS check but some professions may by law require higher levels of checks. You should check the DBS guide for relevant job roles and seek further advice from the Employment Team if you are unsure.  You can contact the team on 023 8071 7717 or email


This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.