Employer Career Zone

Criminal Record Checks / Security Clearance

When stating these sorts of requirements, it is important to be precise about the nature of the checks and clearances required.

There are several sorts of check available, providing different levels of information and scrutiny of potential applicants:

  • a basic check, which shows unspent convictions and conditional cautions
  • a standard check, which shows any spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings
  • an enhanced check, which 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 barred lists, which shows the same as an enhanced check plus whether you’re on the list of people barred from doing the role

(Source: https://www.gov.uk/criminal-record-checks-apply-role)

The law allows many criminal convictions, cautions, reprimands, etc. to be considered “spent” after a certain period of time. This means that, in most circumstances, employers are not entitled to ask about or receive information about them.

Employers are entitled to ask about unspent convictions in any circumstances and a basic check can be requested by any employer for any role. If the role in question is exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, you may be able or obligated to apply for more detailed checks.

Care must be taken to ensure that such checks are of the appropriate level. Failing to sufficiently check a candidate’s criminal record can expose your organisation to legal liability (both civil and criminal).

Similarly, subjecting an applicant to a higher than necessary level of scrutiny can unfairly discourage applicants, who would otherwise be eligible for the role. It is also potentially unlawful to request these disclosures for roles where they are not justified. An online tool is available to help employers determine the right level of check for their role.

Where security clearances are required, both the level of the check required and the reason must be stated. Further information on National Security Vetting can be found here.