What shows (and doesn’t) on a DBS check

If you’ve applied for a job in the UK, chances are you’ve been asked for some level of DBS check. Depending on that role, you may have had a Basic, Standard or Enhanced DBS. 

But what do DBS checks look at and why are they so important? Keep reading to find out what shows, and doesn’t, on your DBS certificate. 

What is a DBS check? 

Let’s start at the beginning – a DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check is a police check which allows employers to see if you have a criminal record. This helps employers protect their companies and determine if you are suitable for the role. 

All three levels check the information held on local police records and cover anyone living or working in England and Wales. Candidates living or working in Scotland or Northern Ireland have their own police check called Disclosure Scotland and AccessNI. 

The three types of DBS checks:  

There are three levels of DBS checks, each increasing in detail and searches. Each level has set criterion, meaning that your employer can’t request more information than is needed for the job. Some industries, such as Education, Health and Social care, Immigration services, Government and Finance require a mandatory Standard or Enhanced DBS check. However, if this is the case for the role you’re applying for, your potential employer will let you know. 

  1. Basic DBS 

Basic DBS checks are the minimum level of DBS check and anyone can apply for one. It will show  unspent convictions or conditional cautions (records that have not yet reached a set period of time, as defined by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974). 

  1. Standard DBS 

Standard DBS checks are the next level up and can only be requested by authorised bodies. They will show all spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings, excluding protected convictions and cautions. 

  1. Enhanced DBS 

Enhanced DBS checks show the same information as Standard DBS checks, as well as any other relevant information held by the candidate’s local police force. Enhanced DBS’ can also include a check of the children’s and/or adult’s barred lists if it is applicable. These lists show anyone who is barred from working with children or vulnerable adults. 

What cautions show on DBS certificates? 

A caution will appear on your DBS certificate if it meets any of the following: 

What cautions aren’t shown on DBS certificates? 

All other cautions will be shown on your DBS unless they meet any of the below: 

  • Cautions received under the age of 18, and at least two years have passed. 
  • Cautions received aged 18 or older, and at least six years have passed. 
What convictions show on DBS certificates? 

Convictions include absolute and conditional discharges and court-imposed bind-overs. These will show on your DBS certificate if: 

What convictions aren’t shown on DBS certificates? 
  • Convictions imposed under the age of 18, and five-and-a-half years have passed. 
  • Convictions imposed aged 18 or older, and 11 years have passed. 
What is not shown on a DBS certificate? 
  • Protected convictions or cautions – these will be filtered during the DBS check process. 
  • Basic DBS checks will not show any spent cautions, fixed penalty notices or convictions. 
  • Basic and Standard DBS checks will not show any allegations or pending matters, unless you plead guilty or are found guilty in a court of law. 
  • Enhanced DBS checks may show allegations or pending matters, depending on the nature of them and whether the police deem them relevant to the job role. 
  • Basic and Standard DBS checks will not include any information on Mental Health, including Hospital orders under section 37 of the Mental Health Act 1983. Enhanced DBS checks may include details of any non-conviction information held by local police, if they consider it relevant. 
What do I do if I’m not happy about the information being disclosed on my certificate? 

If there’s information on your certificate that you wish to dispute, you can ask the DBS to carry out a review. This can be done if the information is incorrect e.g., it’s about another person, or if you feel it’s irrelevant to the job role. 

There is also the option of finding out what your DBS certificate would show by making a subject access request (SAR) in writing, to the police. This would allow you to see the personal information held by your local police force, however, if done at the same time as your potential employer is requesting the DBS check, it would slow down the process and could result in some questions. 

To learn more about DBS checks, check out our FAQs page.

Written by Jade Levison.


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