Pre-Employment Checks in the UK – What You Need to Know

UK employment law requires companies to perform several pre-employment checks before onboarding new employees. These checks verify an employee’s right to work in the UK, criminal record, education history, and professional references. They also check that the individual is not on UK or international sanctions lists.

Background Checks

In the UK, a background check is an essential part of the pre-employment screening process. They help employers assess a candidate’s suitability for the role and can be run by a third party or the company itself. A criminal record check (a Disclosure and Barring Service check or DBS check) is one of the most common. It involves searching for an individual’s criminal convictions, cautions, reprimands, and warnings on the Police National Computer.

Other checks include educational and employment verification, credit, reference, and social media checks. These can be particularly useful when assessing candidates for roles requiring high levels of trust, such as sales, financial services, and IT.  The UK pre-employment checks guide provides comprehensive information and guidance for employers on conducting thorough background checks and screening processes before hiring new personnel.

It’s also important to consider whether a specific background check is required by law or by the company for roles that involve driving on company time or an FCA check for those working with customers or financial assets. Some laws protect individuals from being discriminated against for spent convictions, so it’s crucial to ensure that any criminal checks you carry out are proportionate to the role and comply with the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA).

Right-to-Work Checks 

As the UK’s workforce becomes more diverse, confirming that all new employees have the right to work in the country is increasingly important. This is a crucial requirement mandated by the Home Office. A candidate must present acceptable and valid documentation before commencing employment, establishing their immigration status and any restrictions they may face.

The protocol for conducting a right-to-work check can vary from business to business, as is the choice of method. Some employers prefer to outsource this process to a specialist provider, which saves them time while ensuring they remain compliant. Others will use the government service, which allows them to review documents remotely over a video call. If an employer is satisfied that a candidate has the right to work in the UK, they must provide them with a statutory excuse for the duration of their employment.

The statutory excuse must be recorded in the employer’s records, including the date the check was conducted. The copy document must also be marked with the declaration date, including the name of the person who carried out the check. It’s best to conduct a right-to-work check in person before an employee starts work, as the COVID-19 rules that allowed remote checks for this purpose have now expired. This provides the opportunity to verify a candidate’s identity and ensure that their appearance matches the details on their passport or other documents.

Reference Checks

As an employer, you can request references from prospective employees during the interview process to gain a more complete picture of their qualifications, work history, and personal qualities. This is a standard practice and provides an opportunity to see past performance and verify the information provided by the candidate during the application and interview process. Reference checks are necessary because it is straightforward for candidates to embellish or even lie in their job applications and interviews.

In the UK, there are several pre-employment checks that you can run on a prospective employee to get more detailed information than they may provide in an interview. These include right-to-work checks. This routine check confirms the person has the legal right to work in the UK. Drug Tests. A basic drug test is a simple way to determine if a person can safely and responsibly do their job. Criminal Record Checks.

A standard criminal record check shows “spent convictions,” as well as official reprimands and cautions. An enhanced check provides a more comprehensive look at an applicant’s criminal history, including unspent convictions and official reprimands. Some pre-employment checks are legally restricted based on the type of role the person will be working in. You can only ask about medical records if it is legally required, for example, in the case of heavy machinery or commercial vehicle drivers, and you can only run credit checks if the person will be doing work involving financial duties.

Credit Checks

In some situations, a company might run a credit check before offering a job, such as where the candidate can access large sums of money. This is rare, however. The government has produced a helpful guide for employers about what information they can and cannot use from a background check and what rights candidates have to request to see their data. The basic checks that most employers will carry out are the right-to-work check and the criminal record check.

They may also verify their education history and seek professional references. They can also conduct more detailed verifications of an individual’s identity, such as checking the electoral roll, to verify that they are who they are. Employers are also legally required to carry out a criminal records check before hiring people to work with young children or vulnerable adults.

This means that the company needs to know that the person has the right to work in the UK and is free of convictions that would prevent them from working with these groups. It’s also a good idea for companies to run checks on the qualifications of contractors and freelancers, although this isn’t always feasible. 

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