The jargon around the various background screening processes can be a source of confusion. Here’s a brief explanation of three of the main types.
They are all a form of background check, mainly used before a candidate takes up a job or voluntary position with an organisation. For some employers, they are a legal obligation.
A Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check is a record of an individual’s criminality, held on the police national computer (PNC). Until 2012, they were known as CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) checks and there are four types of check; Basic, Standard and Enhanced. The purpose of the checks is to safeguard vulnerable groups, to prevent them from coming into contact with unsuitable people, as well as highlighting other past criminal activity that may mean someone is not suitable to work in certain environments or performing certain tasks, like money handling, working without supervision or handling sensitive data.
- a basic check – shows unspent convictions and conditional cautions
- a standard check – shows spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands, and final warnings
- an enhanced check – 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 a check of the barred lists – shows the same as an enhanced check plus whether the applicant is on the adults’ barred list, children’s barred list or both
Across the UK, there are three disclosure agencies: the DBS, Disclosure Scotland and Access Northern Ireland. All produce criminality reports, but the spent periods in Scotland and Northern Ireland may differ from those in England and Wales.
The Baseline Personnel Security Standard (BPSS) is the standard mandatory pre-employment screening for employees working in government departments. Its purpose is to protect government assets and minimise the risk to national security. It will check for:
- Identity verification
- Right to work
- Employment history
- Unspent criminal conviction records
- Employment gap verification
As well as government employees and contractors, it is often used for employees in the financial, communications, energy providers and other sites of national, strategic importance The BPSS is also a necessary first line of screening for subsequent government security checks like SC, CTC and DV.
The BS7858 is a pre-employment screening accredited by the British Standards Institute. It was updated with effect from 30th September 2019 to broaden its scope and now recommends the inclusion of social media checks as best practice. It is a robust and comprehensive screening process and is used for high-level employees who have access to sensitive data, roles of authority or that are public facing.
These checks can be carried out to different specifications, depending on the requirements of the organisation. It is a time-consuming and in-depth process, which is why many employers prefer to use the services of a specialist screening provider.