Pre-employment Checks – What are they and why they are important – FAQs

July 4th, 2024 by Daisy Birch

Pre-employment screening checks, sometimes referred to as employee background checks, are a crucial and often mandatory part of the onboarding process in many different organisations. Depending on the nature of the position being filled and the industry it pertains to, these checks can range from basic DBS checks and right to work to enhanced criminal record checks and adverse media screening.

The following guide will explain what pre-employment background checks are, the various checks available, and best practice when carrying them out.

What are pre-employment checks?

Pre-employment screening checks allow employers to vet and verify a potential employee’s credentials, history and suitability for the role they are applying for. By screening candidates, employers and organisations can gain a better understanding of who a candidate is and the skills of an individual to assess if they have the relevant experience to perform the role they applied for. Pre-employment checks support organisations to ensure they are not exposed to any financial loss, reputational damage and consequently saves time and money when hiring.

What checks can an organisation or employer make in the UK?

The most common checks that are carried out include:

In some cases, it may be pertinent to further check a candidate’s social media, adverse credit history or directorship status as part of the pre-employment checking process. The suitability of these checks will depend on the role and can give further insight about the candidate.

Are any pre-employment checks legally required?

UK employers in all sectors are legally required to check their employees right to work in the UK. These checks form what is called a statutory excuse and failing to carry out the necessary and satisfactory checks may result in a fine of up to £45,000.

In certain sectors, where an individual’s role involves regulated activity with children or vulnerable adults. Employers are legally required to ensure the individual is not barred from working with such groups by requesting an enhanced DBS check with a check of the relevant barred list.

In other sectors, regulatory compliance requires employers to complete certain pre-employment checks on individuals. This is often in legal, financial and health care roles.

Who can carry out pre-employment checks?

All employers should carry out pre-employment checks and as a minimum are required to verifying an individual’s right to work in the UK. There are a number of checks that can be completed by any organisation regardless of the sector including a check of unspent criminal convictions through a basic DBS check, verification of employment history via references from previous employers and social media screening checks to name a few.

Are there any pre-employment screening standards?

Yes, there are a number of recognised standards for pre-employment screening. Some of which are generic and others industry specific and include:

  • Baseline Personnel Security Standard (BPSS) – The BPSS standard is nationally recognised and is set by the Government for anyone who has access to government assets. It is commonly accepted as the ‘baseline’ of background screening policy.
  • BS7858 – Produced by the British Standard Institute, BS7858 sets out the screening requirements of individuals working in a secure environment.
  • Senior Managers and Certification Regime (SMCR) – Set by the Finance Conduct Authority (FCA), it aims to reduce harm to consumers and strengthen market integrity by making individuals more accountable for their conduct and competence.

How to avoid discrimination during the pre-employment checking process

It is important that employers do not discriminate against job applicants when conducting and reviewing the necessary pre-employment checks. This is a statutory duty as certain characteristics, known as protected characteristics, are legally protected. Organisations should also ensure that checks are a standard part of the recruitment process for all candidates regardless of nationality, race or ethnic appearance. Organisations should never make assumptions about a candidate and best practice suggests avoiding mandates on how a candidates must prove their right to work in the UK.

Outsourcing pre-employment checks

DDC are a professional DBS & pre-employment screening provider and have been supporting clients with screening compliance since 2002. DDC offer a fully managed service via an all-encompassing pre-employment screening platform. Contact our screening experts today to discuss outsourcing your pre-employment checks.