If you’re trying to negotiate the minefield of getting a new job, it can often seem like there are endless hoops to jump through. One of these hoops is getting your DBS checks done, or PVG in Scotland or AccessNI in Northern Ireland. But what happens if you don’t want to have your employer digging around in your criminal record?
Does the Job Need It?
The DBS system is complicated, and not all employers are experts in how it all works. It’s not unknown for an employer to insist on DBS checking for a tole which does not require it. If you believe that this is the case, then you can explain your thinking to the employer and see how they respond. Employers are not allowed to do criminal records checks on whomever they choose, so should take your concerns seriously. Some however might just assume you have something to hide in refusing to have a DBS check carried out.
Concerns over Mental Health
One of the main reasons for being wary about submitting to DBS checking is because of worries about mental health related incidents. People who have been removed to a place of safety by the Police (informally known as sectioning) will have this on their police record, but may understandably want to keep this information from their prospective employer, especially if the incident was many years in the past.
It’s not generally understood that the Police have a great degree of flexibility over what they disclose on a DBS form, and what they keep confidential. It’s not the case that every piece of information linked to your name will be automatically reproduced on a DBS certificate. The person doing your DBS checks will look at the role you are applying for and what type of information they have about your mental health before deciding whether it is relevant. For example, if you were arrested repeatedly over a period of years and were aggressive to officers this is likely to be disclosed, even if you were never convicted of anything. A single incident many years ago may not be disclosed at all.
What Does my Employer Do With the Information?
Even if your DBS does show information you’d rather have kept confidential, that’s not necessarily the end of the road when it comes to getting a job. Many people have criminal records yet go on to work in roles requiring police checking. Employers will make decisions based on the job requirements and weigh up other information such as what you’ve been doing since the offences or incidents listed on your DBS happened.
Confidentiality is also a concern, but under the Data Protection Act all employers have a duty to keep personal data, such as your DBS certificate, under lock and key. Only people who need to know should have access to the information, so any reputable employer will stop information becoming the talk of the office. If you’re at all worried about what your DBS might show you can raise this at interview stage or take independent advice from a Union or body like ACAS.