DBS checks play a crucial part in the task of vetting potential employees during the recruitment process. Not only can they help businesses protect themselves from internal threats and potentially significant reputational damage, but they’re also a legal requirement in a wide variety of industries. 

As a result, it’s important that HR professionals understand the ins and outs of DBS checks, to ensure both legal compliance and the protection of their company. 

This article provides a general overview of the importance of DBS checks for HR management professionals, from what DBS checks actually are, to which industries require them.

What are DBS checks?

DBS checks are the main kind of criminal background check available in the UK, and are carried out by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), a non-departmental government body. The check looks at an individual’s criminal history, with varying degrees of scrutiny depending on the role being applied for and the level of DBS check required for that role. 

dbs checks help hr departments
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There are three main levels of DBS check available:

Basic check

The basic check is the lowest level of DBS check available. It looks for unspent criminal convictions, warnings and reprimands, and is a common requirement in a wide range of industries, from sales roles to account managers. Unlike the standard and enhanced checks, HR managers can make a basic DBS check a requirement for any role, as it’s not restricted to certain industries or positions.

Standard check

The standard check is the next level up from the basic check and looks for both spent and unspent criminal convictions, warnings and reprimands. 

The standard check is more regulated than the basic check, and HR managers can only request to have one carried out for certain roles. The standard check is a common requirement in industries with a high professional standard, such as law and accountancy.

Enhanced check

The enhanced check is the highest level of DBS check available. In addition to looking for spent and unspent criminal convictions, warnings and reprimands, the enhanced check also includes any information that the local police department considers relevant to the position being applied for. 

The enhanced check is only available for positions where an individual will have direct, unsupervised contact with vulnerable individuals, such as children and vulnerable adults. Industries in which they’re often required include childcare and healthcare. 

Enhanced checks can also be carried out with a barred list check, which will look to see if the individual is on any lists that bar them from working with specific groups of people, such as children.

As enhanced checks are generally required for highly regulated roles, they’re legally the most important checks to have carried out; failure on behalf of an HR department to have these checks carried out can have serious legal results.

Why are DBS checks useful?

DBS checks can be important for a number of reasons:

Regulatory compliance

Ensuring regulatory compliance is an important reason behind carrying out DBS checks in a number of industries. In highly regulated professions such as healthcare, childcare and law, failure on behalf of an employer to carry out due diligence checks can carry significant legal ramifications. 

Often, this responsibility falls on the shoulders of HR management professionals, making it their duty to ensure that these checks are carried out on any candidate before they are accepted into a regulated position.

Reputation protection

Another reason that DBS checks are important is reputation management. While a data leak or theft of sensitive client information can have significant short-term impacts on a business, the long-term impact on the brand can often be far more damaging. 

DBS checks help HR departments to ensure that only trustworthy individuals are brought into an organisation, helping to minimise the chance that incidents of this nature occur in the first place.

Talent attraction and retention

While it’s nice to believe that all job applicants are fully truthful in their application, the sad reality is that a massive 78% of job applicants tell some sort of lie about their past and experience. DBS checks help HR departments to ensure that these lies are maintained to areas such as Excel proficiency, rather than about an individual’s criminal history. 

They help to ensure that only the best talent is brought into an organisation while helping to ensure that the workplace remains a safe space. Keeping the workplace a positive environment is crucial for talent retention and keeping turnover rates as low as possible, while at the same time increasing employee productivity.

Managing DBS checks

With larger organisations and organisations with a high turnover rate, it can be tricky to manage DBS checks. In all cases, issues such as data protection and GDPR compliance can be difficult to ensure. In these scenarios, it can be beneficial to outsource your DBS checks to a third-party DBS check provider. 

These providers manage the data involved in the checks in a safe manner, and help to ensure that you remain legally compliant in all areas. They can also help advise on which kinds of checks are necessary for specific roles.

In Conclusion – DBS checks play a central role in recruitment

As we’ve seen, DBS checks play a nuanced and central role in the recruitment process. They help companies to ensure that only the best talent enters their organisation, while helping to protect company assets and the reputation of the brand. 

HR managers should be particularly mindful of the importance of DBS checks with regard to regulatory compliance – if there is any doubt as to whether one is required for a specific role, it’s generally best to consult a DBS check professional on the matter for expert advice.