United Kingdom pre-employment background checks

The UK was the fastest growing major economy in the developed world in 2014 and 2015, with an unemployment rate of 5.1% as of December 2015. With such a strong job market, finding and retaining employee talent is a key challenge for Human Resource Managers today.

Given that the majority of jobs are in the service sector, pre-employment background checks are becoming an increasingly important risk management tool in the talent and recruitment landscape. Using a background check, employers can verify that the candidate is who they claim to be, that their background is what they claim and try to ensure brand reputation will be protected once the candidate comes onboard.

Can the applicant work?

In the UK you can be fined (a civil penalty) up to £20,000 per person for employing illegal workers, so you’ll want to check that your candidate has the “right to work” as defined by the UK Government. You must verify a person is legally allowed to do the work in question before you employ them.

This is more relevant today than ever before. In 1993, 7.2% of the UK workforce was born abroad, but this rose to 16.7% of the UK workforce by 2014, according to The Migration Observatory.

Verifying the “right to work” can be done by document and ID checking. For example, you can verify that the applicants overseas passport has a current endorsement from the Home Office, with the legal right to work and stay in the UK.

In England and Wales, the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS, which was formerly known as the Criminal Records Bureau or CRB) provides criminal record check data for employment purposes. There are certain roles that are eligible for checks, such as Financial Services positions and then there are certain roles where checks are mandated, such as working with children or in healthcare. There are three levels of background checks that DBS offers:

  • Standard – for spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings
  • Enhanced – which offers everything in standard, but also local police information, if the role warrants it
  • Enhanced with list checks – which offers everything in enhanced, but also checks a “barred list” for people who are unsuitable for working with children and adults

In Scotland, Disclosure Scotland, enables a similar service by providing impartial and confidential criminal history information held by the police and government departments. There are three levels of background checks that Disclosure Scotland offers:

  • Basic – the most common and readily available disclosure in Scotland, is the “Basic” disclosure which reports unspent convictions. These disclosures may be used by employers to make better and safer hiring decisions in Scotland
  • Standard – includes spent convictions as well as details of any cautions, reprimands or final warnings
  • Enhanced – contains all conviction information, so spent and unspent convictions as well as anything else that is considered relevant by the police

In Northern Ireland, Access Northern Ireland provides a similar service and as with Disclosure Scotland they offer basic, standard and enhanced criminal record check levels.

With the candidate’s consent and employer’s instruction, Accurate Background can run an appropriate UK check to obtain the criminal record history for the majority of roles and industries.

Is the applicant going to be driving?

Assuming the candidate is going to be driving, you can also check someone’s driving license information, e.g. the vehicles he or she can drive, any penalty points, or any disqualification on record. This is done with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) based on the candidate’s Driver License Number, identification documentation and of course their consent.

Can the applicant C.V be verified?

The Higher Education Degree Datacheck (HEDD) estimates that around a third of people in the UK embellish or exaggerate their academic qualifications when applying for jobs. Therefore, verification of their employment history, education credentials, as well as any professional licenses is a critical and a commonplace check for independently verifying the information the candidate has provided.

Why use Accurate Background?

While some of the above could be done in house, it is increasingly a task that is shared with a professional background screening company, such as Accurate Background. With globalization and mobility, more candidates will have lived, studied, or worked abroad. You’ll need more resource and knowledge to background check outside of the UK, so it makes sense to partner with an international provider.

Accurate Background can further enhance the process by using our GlobalWatch product, which can identify terrorists, organized criminals, money launderers, fraudsters and others considered high risk in today’s global regulatory environment.

Hopefully this gives you enough information to consider when implementing background checks in the UK. The Accurate Background team would be happy to work with you on any specific questions or considerations, so please do contact us to discuss your needs.