Background checks are required for many job positions that include access to sensitive information or vulnerable people. They are often the only way that an employer can find out the history before accepting them for employment. However, while most people have heard of them, they are unaware of exactly what they entail and which jobs typically require them.

What Is A Background Check?

Checking a candidate’s background is an essential part of the hiring process, so much so that many employers use them to eliminate candidates who have been convicted of a crime or have financial issues that could lead to them mismanaging the company’s money. Furthermore, anyone who works closely with people in vulnerable situations will also need to be thoroughly checked. Known in the UK as a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), these checks are split into three categories: basic, standard, and enhanced. Most occupations will only call for the basic check, which covers what is known as unspent convictions, but some will need a deeper review. 

Why Are Background Checks Needed?

Specific jobs involve working with sensitive information, have access to money, or will enable the employee to work closely with vulnerable individuals. The main occupations that demand at least a basic check include:

  • Any position in education.
  • Hospital staff.
  • Home care staff.
  • Financial occupations.
  • Government positions.
  • Professions working with critical infrastructure.

What Are The Different Levels Of Disclosure?

A certain level of disclosure may be required depending on the occupation for which you are applying. For example, those working with children might need an enhanced disclosure, while others working in car homes may only need a basic or standard option.

Basic Disclosure

Individuals or employers can request the DBS basic check to check their criminal history. For those living within the UK and their employers, this is the lowest level of verification. The Police National Computer (PNC) will be checked for the person’s criminal record, convictions, and cautions in a basic DBS. An individual can apply for this level themselves. It will show the following information:

  • Unspent convictions
  • Conditional cautions

Standard Disclosure

Applicants are subjected to a standard DBS check to ensure they are suitable for the position. As explained by the team behind DBS Checks, it is an in-depth criminal record check used by employers to evaluate their suitability for the post. It shows any warnings, reprimands, or cautions a person has received at this level. A person’s criminal history will include any unspent convictions in all of the home nations. It will show:

  • Spent and unspent convictions
  • Cautions
  • Reprimands
  • Final warnings 

Enhanced Disclosure

Similar to the standard DBS check, employers must request a higher level of checking on behalf of their applicants. All the information that is in a standard DBS check is contained in an enhanced DBS check. In addition, employers can also request to see if potential employees are listed on the Children’s Barred List or Adult First List as part of an enhanced check.


  • Spent and unspent convictions
  • Cautions
  • Reprimands
  • Final warnings 
  • Local police records

Background checks are the final defense against unscrupulous people attempting to gain employment in sensitive fields. Often these checks will provide an employer with all of the information they need to make a judgment call on the suitability of a person for the role.

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