Author: CODE’s Head of Compliance, Alex O’Neill
What are DBS (criminal record disclosure) checks and why are they needed?
Criminal record disclosure checks provide details on an individual’s criminal record and are most commonly requested when an employer recruits a new team member. All clinical staff working in dental practices are required to have enhanced checked. Non-clinical staff undertaking certain activities may also be required to have criminal record checks. In an inspection, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and other regulators will want to see evidence that practices have sought appropriate checks of staff.
Who should pay for DBS checks?
Employers are required to pay the costs for a check for an employee, as it is a condition of the employment. Self-employed team members providing services to the Practice are responsible for the costs associated with providing a check.
How long does a DBS last?
There is no requirement for a service that directly employs its own staff to repeat DBS checks within a set period. For example, there is no blanket rule such as re-checking all employees every three years, although some practices chose to do this. Employers can recheck their staff whenever they think it is necessary, after assessing risks to ensure that any additional checks are proportionate.
CODE advises that wherever possible, practices use the DBS update service, rather than carrying out additional periodic checks.
Can a new team member start before their DBS check has been issued?
Guidance from regulators state that team members may start before their criminal record check is received (following an application), however, this should only be done in exceptional circumstances and after a risk assessment is performed, with safeguards being put in place to manage that person.
The reality of the situation is that it isn’t normally practical to wait for a new DBS check before allowing a new team member to start. Most regulators in England and Wales are content if a practice has put a previous DBS check on file (where possible), applied for a new DBS and performed an assessment of any risks. This doesn’t need to be carried out using a formal risk assessment template, a written explanation of what you have done and why, placed on file, will suffice.
A new team member already has a DBS check from a previous job, can we use this instead of applying for a new one?
An employer always needs to take some action to ensure that a new team member’s criminal record checks are satisfactory.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland a new criminal record check should almost always be sought when a new team member is recruited—this is the case even if a new team member held a criminal record check as part of a previous role. Two exceptions to this rule are if the new team member can provide evidence of a check, at the right level for their role, that is less than three months old or if the new team member is signed up to the DBS update service.
If the new team member is signed up to this service and the DBS check they have at the required level for their new role, a practice may be able to perform a “status check”. Details on how to do this can be found on the official Disclosure & Barring Service page. You must get the individual’s permission before undertaking a DBS status check.
If you are a practice in Scotland and a new team member is a current member of the PVG Scheme the employer will need to register with Disclosure Scotland. Further checks may be required if the new team member is not a member of the scheme.
What’s the difference between CRB, DBS, AccessNI and PVG?
The process and rules for applying for a criminal record checks for employees differs depending on where you are based in the UK. In England and Wales, the body that oversees criminal record checks is the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)—these checks are known as DBS Checks. In Northern Ireland the checks are known as AccessNI checks and are overseen by AccessNI. In Scotland, criminal record disclosures are overseen by Disclosure Scotland. In Scotland, it may be possible for an individual to sign up to the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme.
Prior to the establishment of the DBS, criminal disclosure checks were undertaken in England and Wales by the Criminal Records Bureau Checks. These checks were known as, “CRB Checks”. CRB Checks are no longer undertaken and have been fully replaced by the DBS Checks.
What different levels of check are there?
In all areas of the UK there are four types of checks an employer can check:
- A basic check, which shows unspent convictions and conditional cautions
- A standard check, which shows spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings
- An enhanced check, which shows the same as a standard check plus any information held by local police that’s considered relevant to the role
- An enhanced check with barred lists, which shows the same as an enhanced check plus whether the applicant is on the list of people barred from doing the role (Note: the authorities in Scotland and Northern Ireland will check the barred lists automatically when an enhanced check is requested).
Scotland has an additional service called the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme. Disclosure Scotland continually monitor PVG scheme members’ records for vetting information including criminal convictions that may affect their suitability to work with vulnerable groups.
As a Practice, do we need to apply for DBS checks for all our team members?
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, dental practices should undertake an enhanced disclosure checks for all clinical staff. This includes dentists, dental hygienists, dentaltherapists and dental nurses. In Scotland, clinical team members should be signed up to the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme.
It is not automatically assumed that non-clinical staff working in a dental practice require a DBS check, however, CODE recommends that there should be no team member working in a Practice without some form of DBS check. The need and level of check required depends on the activities and type of patient access the person will have in any given role. Both Private and NHS Practices can use the NHS Employers DBS Eligibility Tool to help them decide which type of check is required.
How do I apply for DBS checks for team members?
In all parts of the UK an individual can apply for a “Basic Check” themselves. For all other checks, including standard checks, enhanced checks and the PVG scheme in Scotland, employers must apply on the individual’s behalf through an “umbrella body” (“registered body” in Northern Ireland). An employer chooses a suitable Umbrella Body and that organisation will issue the relevant forms and process the check. Practices can search for “umbrella bodies” and find further detailed guidance on the relevant websites for England and Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
What is the DBS update service?
In England and Wales, a practice (or individual) can additionally sign up to the update service for a small fee. This enables applicants to keep their DBS certificates up to date and means that employers to check a DBS certificate without having to request a new check. CODE recommends that all new starters are signed up to this service as this will enable any further checks by the employer to be undertaken more efficiently and with reduced cost.
I am applying to be registered person, partner or registered manager—do I need a new DBS check?
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland any individual applying to be a registered manager with the Care Quality Commission (CQC), Health Inspectorate Wales (HIW) and Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) must get an enhanced check with barring information countersigned the regulatory body they are applying to. The process differs between each regulatory body, but in each case takes up to 60 working days to process.
For registration, the CQC require a countersigned DBS check that is less than 12 months old at the time you register, in Wales the DBS check can be up to three years old. In Northern Ireland, RQIA countersign an applicant’s enhanced disclosure during the registration application process.
There is no general requirement in Scotland for a Registered Manager’s criminal record check to be countersigned, however, prospective Registered Managers should check with their local health boards to clarify the rules before registering.
How long do I keep DBS checks for?
Do not keep disclosure information, its content or any copy in any format for longer than is necessary. It should be destroyed securely after a suitable period has passed – usually not more than 6 months following the recruitment decision, unless a dispute is raised or in other exceptional circumstances.
However, Practices should keep:
- The issue date of the certificate
- The name and date of birth of the individual
- The level of checks/disclosure requested
- The position for which the certificate was requested
- The unique reference number of the certificate
- The details of the employment decision taken
- Any additional information that may require periodic checks to be made
Practices should not take or keep photocopies of an applicant’s certificate. If there is a reason for keeping a copy, for example there is a dispute or complaint, the employer must explain the reason and get the individual’s permission.
How long does it take for a DBS check to be completed and how much does it cost?
Basic Checks usually take 14 days to be issued. Other checks can take up eight weeks, but can take longer if the details given for the check are incorrect or several police forces need to be involved in the check. Costs vary between countries and the type of check required—in England and Wales the Basic and Standard checks cost £23, Enhanced and Enhanced with Barred Lists cost £40. The update service costs £13. CQC Countersigned enhanced DBS checks cost a total of £57.50. These fees are correct at time of writing but are subject to change.
What happens if we are employing someone from overseas?
It is strongly recommended that employers should request a certificate of good conduct or an overseas criminal record check when recruiting staff from abroad. Currently, it is not possible for UK agencies to access criminal records held overseas. However, in a small number of cases, overseas criminal records are also held on the Police National Computer (PNC) and these would be revealed as part of a disclosure. Where the position meets the criteria for a disclosure, even if the applicant claims they have never lived in the UK before, a disclosure should still be obtained in addition to the individual’s overseas criminal records. The relevant foreign embassy should be contacted to check an applicant’s overseas criminal records.
What should I be checking for when it comes to locums and agency staff?
Locums engaged directly by the practice should be treated in the same manner as any other new starter. For agency staff, practices must obtain and keep written confirmation from an employment agency that eligible members of staff supplied to them have had a satisfactory DBS check at the right level for their role. As a registered provider, the practice would also be responsible for ensuring that any agency used has robust and effective recruitment procedures.