Criminal Records Checks

Employers can check the criminal records of people they are recruiting by using the Government Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) in England.

There are different systems in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

There are different types of DBS check, and selecting which one is applicable depends on the job or role of the applicant.

A basic DBS check shows unspent convictions and conditional cautions, and an employer can apply for one, with the individual’s consent, or an individual can apply for their own basic check.

For roles which are excluded from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, there is the standard check, which shows spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings, the enhanced check, which shows the same as a standard check plus any information held by local police that’s considered relevant to the role, and also the 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.

There is a tool on the gov.uk DBS website to help find out which roles are applicable to DBS checks:

DBS Criminal Records Checks (gov.uk)

Rehabilitation Of Offenders Act

Eligible convictions or cautions become “spent” after a specified period of time, under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA).

The rehabilitation periods depend on the sentence given as a result of a conviction, and the age of the individual on the date they are convicted.

There is a guide to rehabilitation periods in the gov.uk DBS website:

DBS Rehabilitation Periods Guidance (gov.uk)

Some jobs or roles are listed as exemptions from the ROA, where job applicants may be asked to disclose their caution or conviction even if it is spent. These are set out in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (Exceptions) Order 1975.

The jobs and roles listed in the Exceptions Order mainly relate to particularly sensitive areas such as work with children or other people in vulnerable circumstances, work in law enforcement and the legal system, and high level financial positions.


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