A 2019 study by the BBC found that the UK’s largest employer is asking thousands of applicants to fund their own DBS checks. Does this mean that the NHS are charging people to work for them?
Who needs DBS checks?
There are three different levels of DBS checks, and similar systems operating in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Most of the people who need a disclosure check are in a position of responsibility, or are caring for vulnerable patients in hospital. This covers nearly everyone working in the NHS, from cleaners and porters through the ranks to high level managers and consultant surgeons. Most NHS staff will require an enhanced DBS check, and this is certainly the case for front-line staff.
Paying for DBS checks
There is a charge associated with each and every DBS certificate which is issued. The fee is less than £50 in most cases, but multiply this sum by the huge volume of applications which the NHS submits and the total soon mounts up. There are no laws about who has to pay for a DBS check, so no legal requirement for the employer to foot the bill for their workers’ checks. The NHS is therefore completely within its rights to ask workers to pay for their own checks. The only exception to this is volunteer staff within any setting, who don’t have to pay for a DBS check.
There is also a side issue around minimum wage – if the cost of paying for your DBS check takes your salary under the minimum wage for your age group, that’s not allowed either. This may not apply to office staff or nurses, but may to catering and cleaning staff.
Implications When Applying for a Job
The main problem when applying for the job with the NHS is the risk of being out of pocket. Many NHS trusts have a policy of asking applicants to fund their own DBS checks, and then refund the money in the first pay packet. Applicants are therefore only out of pocket temporarily. Not all NHS trusts do this though, so it is important to understand the policy of the NHS trust you are applying to at an early stage. If you are applying for lots of jobs in several different NHS trusts then you may be in the position of paying out for several certificates, and only needing one for the job you ultimately choose.
Within the same NHS trust, there is less likely to be an issue with DBS checks. If, for example, you are swapping from being a hospital ward nurse to being a nurse in a GP surgery all within the same trust, then your DBS certificate will go with you. You may however need a new check if your new job has different types of responsibilities. Similar rules may apply if you’re switching from working with adults to children, or vice versa. Seek advice from the HR department, and if paying your DBS fee would cause financial difficulties then tell them – there may be a hardship fund.