Brush Up on Criminal Record Checks Basics to Avoid Breaking the Law

Criminal record checks are invaluable tools. They help you determine whether a candidate for a position in your organisation meets certain criteria, such as having a clean past with no prior convictions.

As an employer, you must express caution when deciding whether to conduct a criminal record check. There are several factors dictating the need for a criminal record check, including legal requirements, the type of position, company policies, the level of the check and more. It is a criminal offence to apply for a check unless the job or role is eligible for one. Eligible positions can include those that work with children or vulnerable adults, health care professionals, barristers and solicitors, certified accountants, government officials and court officers.

Criminal record checks can reveal ‘spent’ and ‘unspent’ convictions. A conviction becomes spent after a rehabilitation period, the length of which depends on the type of sentence and the age of the offender when convicted. A conviction is unspent if the rehabilitation period is not passed or if the sentence exceeded two and one-half years.

All UK employers are entitled to ask and know details about applicants’ unspent convictions through a basic disclosure request. Do this through Disclosure Scotland, which services all of the United Kingdom for basic disclosure requests. But to obtain details about spent convictions, employers need to follow country-specific legislation and requirements.

• England and Wales – Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) Checks. A DBS check discloses the spent convictions of those applying for specific positions and professions. Employers are responsible for ensuring they are entitled to submit a check for the positions. There are three types of DBS checks, in varying degrees of detail: standard, enhanced and enhanced with list.
• Scotland – Disclosure Scotland. In order to apply for a disclosure on an individual, employers must become a registered body and pay an annual fee. There are three main types of disclosures in Scotland: standard, enhanced and the Protecting Valuable Groups Scheme.
• Northern Ireland – AccessNI. Northern Ireland employers can apply for two main criminal record checks to reveal spent convictions: the standard AccessNI check, and the enhanced AccessNI check.

Consult your government’s employment service to avoid committing a criminal offence by unlawfully conducting a criminal records check.