CQC Assessment at The Vesey




Workforce planning and recruitment

Workforce planning and recruitment

Safety is a priority for everyone and leaders embed a culture of openness and collaboration. People are always safe and protected from bullying, harassment, avoidable harm, neglect, abuse and discrimination. Their liberty is protected where this is in their best interests and in line with legislation.

Where people raise concerns about safety and ideas to improve, the primary response is to learn and improve continuously. There is strong awareness of the areas with the greatest safety risks. Solutions to risks are developed collaboratively. Services are planned and organised with people and communities in a way that improves their safety across their care journeys. People are supported to make choices that balance risks of harm with positive choices about their lives. Leaders ensure there are enough skilled people to deliver safe care that promotes choice, control and individual wellbeing.

Workforce planning and recruitment

Our Evidence:

Workforce planning and recruitment

Our workforce recruitment policy follows the guide and principles below:

Identity checks standard - Introduction

Checking a candidate's identity is the most fundamental of all the pre-employment requirements, as it forms the basis of all other checks.

The identity check standard includes:

1.1 What is an identity check?

1.1.1   An identity check verifies that an individual is who they say they are. It is the most fundamental of all the employment checks. Undertaking identity checks minimises the risk of employing or engaging an individual who:

1.1.2   It should be the first check performed, as all other checks will be rendered invalid if the individual’s identity cannot be proved.

1.1.3   Identity fraud is increasing, and it is important for employers to periodically review local policies and processes to ensure they remain in line with legal requirements and new technologies, as operational standards are strengthened.

1.2 How to verify identity

1.2.1   Employers must check the identity of an individual using a process of:

Criminal record checks standard - Introduction

1.1 What is a criminal record check?

1.1.1   A criminal record check relates to the data held about a person’s criminal history. The information included in a criminal record may vary between countries, and even between jurisdictions within the same country.

1.1.2   In most cases, a check will include criminal convictions, cautions and other similar offences, such as traffic offences for speeding and drink-driving. In some countries the record is limited to actual convictions issued by a court of law, while others will include arrests, charges, charges missed or pending, and even charges of which the individual has been acquitted.

1.1.3   This document describes the legislative requirements for employers that apply to England only.

1.2 Importance of a criminal record check

1.2.1   Carrying out a criminal record check can help to ensure unsuitable people are prevented from entering the workforce and gaining access to individuals who may be more vulnerable because they are receiving heathcare services.

1.2.2   A criminal record check should not be relied on in isolation. This type of check can provide a level of assurance about an individual’s suitability but employers should consider criminal record information alongside the wider range of evidence gathered at the application, interview, and pre-employment checking stages.

1.2.3   Employers should check criminal record information at the end of the recruitment process to help ensure the individual is assessed on their merits and without prejudice.  It also helps to remove any risks of unfairly ruling out an individual who may have made mistakes in their life but who would otherwise meet all other essential criteria for the role and are safe and suitable for employment.

1.3 Where to obtain a criminal record check

1.3.1   In the UK, criminal record checks should be obtained through:

1.3.2   Employers must obtain checks from the relevant body for their geographical location. This is because of variances in how legislation operates in different countries.  For instance, certain offences may be regarded differently, or different periods of rehabilitation may be imposed therefore affecting the type of criminal record information employers need to consider. All three agencies referenced above have reciprocal arrangements in place to share criminal record information where offences are considered the same in that country.

1.4 The role of the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)

1.4.1   The DBS supports employers to make safe recruitment decisions by providing information held about an individual on the Police National Computer (PNC). It also has a team of caseworkers who process referrals about individuals who have harmed or pose a risk of harm to vulnerable groups, with a view to placing them on the adults and/or children’s barred lists.

Types of criminal record check

2.1 Basic check

2.1.1   Basic checks may be obtained for positions that are covered by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, referred to within legislation as non-exempt positions.

2.1.2   A basic check provides information about conditional cautions and convictions that are unspent only. This is because the Act allows for certain offences to become legally ignored or spent after a specified rehabilitation period. The length of any rehabilitation period is determined by the sentence or out-of-court disposal received. Once the rehabilitation period has elapsed and if the individual has not been reconvicted at any time during this period, their record becomes spent and they will not be required to declare these offences, nor are employers permitted to consider this type of information in their assessment of suitability for the role. When recruiting to a non-exempt position, employers must ensure they do not ask for information they are not legally permitted to consider as part of their assessment of suitability.

2.1.3   Basic checks may be considered for any NHS role that would not normally be eligible for a standard or enhanced check. We would suggest that this level of check applies to roles which have a higher level of responsibility, accountability, or trust and where such a check would be considered proportionate to any associated risks.

2.1.4   Employers can either ask for an individual’s consent to obtain a basic disclosure on their behalf or require them to apply for one directly. All applications for a basic disclosure should be made through the online facility on the DBS website.

2.2 Standard check

2.2.1   Standard checks must only be obtained for professions or positions which are listed as exempt under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975 (as amended).

2.2.2   A standard check provides information about spent and unspent criminal convictions, cautions and other such offences that are not protected (i.e. eligible for filtering). This may also include information about any offences committed in Scotland and Northern Ireland that may equally be regarded as an offence under English law. Further information about offences that are protected under the DBS filtering rules can be found in Appendix 2.

2.2.3   To meet eligibility for a standard check, the role must require the individual in that role to be involved in the provision of a health service which would also give them access to persons in receipt of health services as part of their normal duties.

2.2.4   We would advise that access to persons in receipt of health services should exclude roles where this is limited or incidental i.e. no more than a visitor to a hospital site. For example, when working or volunteering in public areas where persons in receipt of health services may also be present or when needing to pass through areas where persons are in receipt of health services to get to their normal place of work.

2.3 Enhanced check without barred list information

2.3.1   To be eligible to request an enhanced check, the position must be listed as exempt under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975 (as amended) and, in addition, be listed in the Police Act 1997 (Criminal Records) (Amendment) Regulations 2013 as work with adults and/or work with children. Eligibility guidance is available on the gov.uk website.

2.3.2   The enhanced check will provide the same information as a standard check. In addition, it will include any other relevant information that may be held on local police databases which the chief officer reasonably believes should be disclosed and considered by an employer. Including cautions or convictions that may be protected by the DBS filtering rules.

2.4 Enhanced check with barred list information

2.4.1   Barred list information is not routinely provided in an enhanced check. To be eligible to request information held against the adults and/or children’s barred list(s), the position must involve a regulated activity as stipulated within the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 (amended by Protection of Freedoms Act in 2012).

2.4.2   The Department of Health and Social Care and Department of Education have produced two factual notes which employers will find helpful to use when considering which NHS roles might fall eligible under regulated activity:

2.4.3   This level of check will include the same information as the enhanced disclosure. It will also outline whether the individual is barred from carrying out certain activities with children and/or adults, as may be applicable to the role.

2.4.4   Employers should note that it is unlawful for them to knowingly allow an individual to engage in a regulated activity with the group(s) they are barred from working or volunteering with. Individuals are also committing a criminal offence if they apply for/or engage in any form of regulated activity with the group(s) from which they are barred. Where such cases become evident, employers must be clear about their legal obligations to make a referral to the DBS.

2.5 DBS Adult First service – regulated activity

2.5.1   The Adult First Service enables employers to obtain a fast-track check against the adults barred list. This check does not remove the need to obtain a full enhanced disclosure, but it can help to mitigate risk where any delay to recruitment would have a significant impact on the provision of services and/or patient safety. For example, this might be during the winter period when there is an increased pressure on NHS services.

2.5.2   If the check confirms that the individual is not barred from working with adults, and all other recruitment criteria has been met, employers can allow them to start work under supervision while waiting for the outcome of the full enhanced disclosure. The precise nature and level of supervision will vary from case to case. Employers must ensure that the supervision in place is sufficient, in their judgement, to provide reasonable assurance for the protection of adult persons in receipt of health services.

2.5.3   It is important to be mindful that the full enhanced disclosure may include additional information which will need to be considered before any unconditional offer can be confirmed. Employers must make it clear to individuals that any appointment remains conditional until the full enhanced disclosure has been received, regardless of any fast-track check against the adults barred list.

2.5.4   There is no equivalent fast track service which enables a check against the children’s barred list. Where individuals are working with children as well as adults or working with children only, employers will need to wait to receive the full enhanced disclosure to confirm they are not barred before allowing individuals to start work.

2.6 DBS update service

2.6.1   The update service is available for prospective and existing employees to subscribe to when an application for a DBS check is made. Subscription to the service allows for standard or enhanced certificates to be updated and allows employers to mitigate risk by carrying out a quick check online instead of requiring individuals to have a new DBS check each time they change roles and where the new role does not alter the type or level of check required.

2.6.2   Employers should ask individuals if they are already subscribed to the service as part of the recruitment process and seek their permission to access their information online. If not already subscribed, employers may wish to consider whether it would be beneficial for them to encourage applicants to subscribe when a DBS check is obtained.

2.6.3   If encouraging subscription to the update service, employers should make it expressly clear that individuals have a personal responsibility to ensure their account details remain accurate, up to date and subscription fees are paid on time for the full term of their employment. Any lapse in subscription will mean automatic updates on their criminal record status will cease and a new check will be required for them to resubscribe. Employers may wish to consider putting mechanisms in place to prompt staff to periodically check that their name, address and bank details remain correct (for example through ESR or other similar system). This will be particularly important for individuals who have opted in for automatic renewal of their subscription, as they may assume no further action is required.

2.6.3   See further information in our employer’s guide to the DBS update service.

Minimum requirements

3.1 Determining eligibility for a check

3.1.1   Employers must undertake an eligibility assessment to determine if a check needs to be carried out and if so, the correct type and level of check required for the role.

3.1.2   Requirements under the criminal record regime are complex and can be difficult to understand. Not all NHS roles will be eligible for a DBS check. The trigger for a check and the level of check required is determined by the type of activities the individual in that role will be required to undertake and the level of access this will give them to persons in receipt of health services. It is therefore essential for employers to provide as much information as possible to ensure recruiting managers understand the eligibility criteria for each level of DBS check and applicants have clarity on what type of information they need to declare.

3.1.3   Employers may find it helpful to refer to our online DBS eligibility tool. The tool asks a series of questions to identify whether a role meets the criteria for a DBS check. You can also find a series of scenario-based examples to demonstrate how different responsibilities can impact on the level of check required. Further information on DBS eligibility is available on the gov.uk website.

3.1.4   For background information see Appendix 1 which contains a list of all the key pieces of legislation which either permit or legally require employers to obtain a DBS check.

3.2 When to request a DBS check

3.2.1   Where a role meets the eligibility criteria, employers should undertake a DBS check at the end of the recruitment process and once the provisional offer of appointment has been made. It is important to make clear that any offer of  employment remains conditional until all satisfactory checks have been completed, including a DBS check. The disclosure certificate will be sent directly to the individual, employers will therefore need to ask individuals to present their original copy of the disclosure certificate at the earliest opportunity, to reduce delays in them taking up appointment.

3.2.2   Where individuals are subscribed to the DBS update service, the employer will need to check the individual’s criminal record status online. Employers must seek the individual’s permission to access their information online and ask them to present their original disclosure certificate. Be mindful that there are requirements to obtain a new DBS check where individuals are changing roles and the new role changes the type and level of DBS clearances required, regardless of their subscription to the update service.

3.3 Taking up a position before the check outcome is known

3.3.1   Employers may, in exceptional circumstances, make a risk-based decision to allow an individual to take up their role before the outcome of their DBS check is known. Exceptional circumstances include where individuals are required to complete a period of induction or training in advance of them starting in their role. Where practical, it may also include allowing individuals to start work or volunteer in a limited capacity, for example, restricting duties to non-regulated activity until the outcome of the check is known.

3.3.2   If recruiting into a regulated activity with adults, employers may wish to consider obtaining a quick check against the barred list through a DBS Adult First check.

3.4 Existing staff changing roles within the same organisation

3.4.1   There is no requirement for employers to obtain a new DBS check on existing members of staff who are changing roles within the same organisation and where the new role does not  change the type or level of DBS clearances required. Any request for a repeat check should be proportionate to risk and will be dependent on whether local policy requires periodic checks or subscription to the DBS update service.

3.4.2   Employers should make it clear to all staff that they have a duty under the NHS Terms and Conditions of Service to notify any organisation they are employed or volunteering with, if they subsequently become subject to any convictions, police cautions, conditional cautions or other similar offences, at any point during their term of appointment. It may be in an employers’ best interest to outline similar requirements for volunteers or temporary/contracted workers.

3.5 Students

3.5.1   Students undertaking vocational placements as part of a professional qualification are likely to be eligible for a DBS check. The employer offering that placement will need to determine the level of check required based on the activities the individual will be required to undertake and the risks associated with those responsibilities.

3.5.2   Employers may choose to pass the responsibility to undertake a DBS check to the educational establishment where the applicant has been provisionally accepted on a training placement. Where doing so, they must seek written assurances that the educational establishment has carried out an appropriate check at the correct level. Where the necessary assurances cannot be provided, the employer will require a new check either by obtaining one themselves or requiring the educational institution to obtain one.

3.6 Work placement/experience

3.6.1   The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 legislates that DBS checks must only be conducted on individuals who are aged 16 or over. When offering work placements/experience to individuals under the age of 16, the host organisation should rely on other sources of evidence gained through their check process to assess a young person’s suitability.

3.6.2   Eligibility for a DBS check for those aged 16 and over will need to be based on the type of duties individuals will be undertaking while on placement and the level of access this will permit them to have with persons in receipt of health services. Quite often, work placements are only for very short periods of time, therefore the host organisation may decide that it would not be practical or proportionate to seek a DBS check. In such cases, the reasons for not carrying out a DBS check must be recorded and retained on file and appropriate safeguards put in place to manage that individual.

3.6.3   Individuals on work placements or experience should not be allowed to engage in a regulated activity. Observing clinical practise is not a regulated activity and therefore an enhanced with barred list check is not required. The host organisation should consider whether the duties or contact with persons in receipt of health services would meet eligibility for other levels of DBS check (i.e., basic, standard or enhanced without barred list).

3.6.4   In all cases, the host organisation must ensure that all individuals invited to carry out a work placement or experience are suitably supervised for the full term of their stay within the organisation and only permitted to carry out duties which are appropriate to their level of knowledge, skills, and experience.

3.7 Informing applicants about check requirements

3.7.1   Employers must be able to demonstrate that they are only asking for information that is strictly necessary for them to gain assurance of an individual’s suitability for the role they are recruiting to. This is of utmost importance to ensure compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

3.7.2   Clearly stating the type of checks that will be undertaken as part of the recruitment process allows individuals to make an informed decision about whether to apply. Being clear about automatic exclusions that apply to regulated activity i.e., if they appear on the adults or children’s barred list(s), will be helpful to ensure time and resources are not wasted on requiring individuals to go through an interview process, only for their application to be rejected further down the process.

3.7.3   Providing information about your organisation’s policy on recruiting individuals who have a criminal record will also help reassure applicants that your organisation is committed to adhering to fair recruitment practice. The DBS have provided a sample policy on recruiting ex-offenders which you can adopt for this purpose.

3.7.4   Providing applicants with a point of contact within your organisation is also recommended in case they have any questions about the recruitment process. Given the complexities of the criminal justice system, signposting them to charity bodies such as Nacro or Unlock will also be necessary to ensure they understand what criminal record information they need to declare and their rights when doing so.

3.7.5   If information about an applicant’s criminal record is discussed verbally, we would recommend that this is carefully recorded and stored separately and securely on the applicant’s file in line with GDPR guidelines. This is in case of any challenge about the recruitment process or final recruitment decision is raised later down the line.


4.1 Accepting a pre-disclosed DBS certificate

4.1.1   DBS disclosure certificates have no specific term of validity. They only provide information that’s known about an individual at the time of issue. The most reliable way of ensuring you have access to the most up to date information about an individual’s criminal record status and therefore enabling portability, is by encouraging them to subscribe to the DBS update service.

4.1.2   Employers may choose to accept a disclosure certificate that was obtained for a previous role based on risk assessment, but you must always check:

4.1.3   Employers considering pre-disclosed information should always factor:

Periodic checks

5.1 Introducing periodic checks

5.1.1   Although not a legal requirement, employers may choose to introduce periodic checks. The frequency by which employers require periodic checks should be decided at a local level. Employers may choose to apply requirements to certain professions or more widely to all roles that are eligible for a DBS check. All requirements to recheck members of staff should be proportionate to risk.

5.1.2   Where introducing periodic checks, there is no need to apply these retrospectively. Members of staff who have been employed prior to the arrangements coming in will be captured as part of the natural cycle of checking.

5.1.3   If considering introducing periodic checks under new policy, then it will be critical to engage trade unions and legal teams so that you are compliant with requirements under the DBS regime, data protection and other employment law. Engaging with your communications teams will also be helpful to ensure changes are clearly communicated and understood by all workers who may be impacted.

5.1.4   There are a few arrangements (described below) that have been agreed nationally with employers as recommended good practice. These were introduced to enable employers to reasonably mitigate risk before the DBS update service was introduced and can continue to be adopted as an alternative.

5.2 Temporary workers and contractors5.2.1   Not all temporary workers and contractors are eligible for DBS checks. When entering into contractual agreements with agencies and other third-party staffing providers, employers will need to clearly outline the need for a DBS check and the level of clearances required.

5.2.2   Where individuals are not subscribed to the DBS update service, there should be a condition which requires any eligible workers to have an annual DBS check as a minimum requirement. Employers must seek written confirmation from the staffing provider that the worker they are supplying has got all the necessary clearances to undertake the role they are being appointed to, and there is no known information about them that may call their suitability into question.

5.2.3   If the worker is registered with NHS Professionals to carry out additional temporary work while also holding a substantive post in the NHS, there is no requirement for an annual DBS check, but assurances should be sought from their substantive employer to confirm that all necessary checks were undertaken when they were first appointed. A new DBS check must always be obtained if the individual subsequently leaves their substantive post or has had a break in service for a continuous period of three months or more immediately prior to them registering as a temporary worker with NHS Professionals.

5.2.4   Employers may require additional checks to be undertaken where the necessary assurances cannot be provided or where concerns have been raised about a worker’s suitability. Additional checks may be undertaken by the employing organisation or this can be required of the staffing provider, depending on contractual arrangements set in place.

5.3 Doctors in training5.3.1   Doctors on educational training rotations should be regarded as being in continuous employment for the full term of their training programme.

5.3.2   Trainee doctors who are not subscribed to the DBS update service must have a DBS check at least once every three years. Employing organisations will need to seek written confirmation that a DBS check has been obtained within the preceding three-year period and it is at the correct level for the role they will be undertaking.

5.3.3   Where considering requiring individuals to subscribe to the Update Service as an alternative to three-yearly checks, it is advisable that this is done when individuals first start their foundation training. For those already on a training programme, any new requirement to subscribe to the DBS update service should be prompted when their three-yearly check is next due to expire. Employers should not require doctors to have a new check simply to subscribe to the DBS update service if their three-yearly check is still valid.

Using an external agency to carry out DBS checks

6.1.1   In cases where the responsibility for carrying out checks has been delegated to an external agency registered with the DBS (known as an umbrella body) the employing organisation will need to seek written assurances of the outcome of any checks it carries out on their behalf.

6.1.2   If the disclosure comes back clear (that is, if it confirms that the individual does not have any criminal convictions, cautions or other similar offences), then the employer can accept written confirmation from that agency that this is the case, without the need to see the original disclosure certificate.

6.1.3   If the outcome of the check reveals that relevant information is known and information needs to be considered, employers should either ask the candidate to present their original disclosure certificate or ask the umbrella body to provide a scanned copy of the disclosure certificate so that they can consider any information that might be relevant to determine the individual’s suitability for a particular role.

Other types of check

7.1 Seeking a self-declaration

7.1.1   Seeking a self-declaration can be useful to ensure applicants have a greater understanding about the type of information that will be requested about them and considered as part of the recruitment process. It also gives individuals an opportunity to identify any additional information or evidence that they may wish to be considered in support of their application.

7.1.2   For this purpose, we have produced two model declaration forms which outline a range of questions employers are legally entitled to ask of applicants, including information about criminal records, registration with professional bodies and fitness to practise, as may be appropriate to the role being appointed to. They also include questions about issues relating to conduct or behaviour in circumstances that may be relevant to consider in a work-related setting.

7.1.3   Employers may use the model declaration forms or adapt their own organisational forms to include the questions outlined.  The forms are periodically reviewed to ensure they remain compliant with legal requirements under the DBS regime, data protection, equality and human rights. It is therefore important for employers to ensure they refer to the NHS Employers website to ensure they are using the correct forms:

Model declaration form A should only be completed by applicants applying for NHS positions which are exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. Exempt positions are eligible for a standard or enhanced DBS check under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975 (as amended) or the Police Act 1997.

Model declaration form B should only be completed by applicants applying for NHS positions which are non-exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 and where there is discretion for an employer to require a basic disclosure in follow up to verify information.

7.1.4   Further guidance can be found in our guide on seeking a self-declaration.

7.2 Overseas police checks

7.2.1   Overseas police checks must be in accordance with the relevant country’s justice system. Some police authorities overseas will only provide a certificate of good conduct or standing. Any such certificates issued by a police authority are valid and can be accepted. A certificate of good standing issued by an overseas regulator is not equivalent to a police check but may still be helpful to inform the overall assessment of suitability for a role.

7.2.2   Further guidance about how individuals can apply for an overseas police check is available on the Home Office website.

7.2.3   Any overseas police certificates should be verified in the exact same way as all other official documentary evidence to ensure they are legitimate and relate to the individual presenting themselves. If employers are unsure of the authenticity of the documents, they should contact the relevant country’s embassy in the UK for advice.

7.3 Overseas applicants

7.3.1   Individuals applying for a visa to work in the UK in health, social care and education sectors must provide an overseas police check as part of their visa application.

7.3.2   Certificates must be provided for any country (excluding the UK) in which they have resided in for 12 months or more (whether continuously or in total) in the last 10 years, while aged 18 or over.

7.3.3   Employers are recommended to inform applicants of this requirement as early in the recruitment process as possible, for example when assigning a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). It should also be made clear that a translated copy must be provided where the certificate is not issued in English.

7.3.4   A certificate from an applicant’s most recent country of residence will normally only be considered valid if it has been issued no earlier than six months before their visa application date. If the applicant has resided in another country or countries within the last 10 years, certificates obtained from the relevant authority for that country will considered valid indefinitely.

7.3.5   For visa purposes, the Home Office will accept a photocopy or scanned copy of the original police certificate. However, employers should make it clear to the applicant that they will need to present their original certificate for employment checking purposes.

7.3.6   In addition to any overseas police check, the Home Office recommends that employers should obtain a DBS check to assure themselves that the individual does not have a criminal record in the UK; and, where relevant to the role, is not barred from working with children and/or adults. The applicant from overseas may have lived in the UK previously, whether they declare it or not, and if so, and the individual has committed an offence in the UK, the DBS check can provide that detail, subject to the level of check and the disclosure rules which apply.

7.3.7  In a small number of cases, overseas criminal records are held on the Police National Computer (PNC) and these would also be revealed as part of a DBS check.

7.3.8   DBS checks should be obtained as soon as practical, i.e. when the applicant can be reasonably expected to provide the necessary documentation required in the DBS identity checking guidelines for a check to be processed.

7.4 Applicants with time spent overseas

7.4.1   Where recruiting individuals who have spent time overseas, employers should consider whether an overseas police check may be required. This applies where applicants declare they have spent a significant period overseas within the last five years. We suggest that a significant period should be considered as any period of six months or more (whether continuously or in total) within the last five years.

7.5 Unable to obtain an overseas police check

7.5.1   Not all countries have reciprocal arrangements to share information about an individual’s criminal record history for employment purposes. If the country concerned is not listed in Home Office guidance, employers should instruct individuals to contact the Embassy or High Commission in the relevant country for advice on what to do. Contact details can be found on the gov.uk website.

7.5.1   Employers should ask applicants to show any attempt made to seek an overseas police check and any reasons given as to why one could not be obtained. Where it is genuinely not possible to obtain an overseas police check, employers will need to base their recruitment decision on the wider range of evidence presented to them as part of the recruitment process, including character and other references.

7.6 Military service records

7.6.1   If an applicant declares that they are serving in the armed forces, employers can ask them to present an extract from their military service record instead of obtaining an overseas police check or a DBS check. This should disclose any criminal or military offences the individual may have been charged with while serving in any country, where the offence would be considered the same in the UK.

7.6.2   If the applicant has left the armed forces, it is important to note that any military record will only be relevant up to the point they were in service. Employers should therefore assess whether a DBS check may still be required.

7.6.3   The extract must be original and issued by and verified through the force they were serving with. It is important to note that some criminal offences that apply under military service law may not be regarded as such under civilian law. Employers will therefore need to take a proportionate approach when considering any such information. For instance:

7.6.4   In both cases, employers should only consider information that would be relevant to the role they are appointing to.

7.6.5   Information about what constitutes as a disciplinary offence under military law can be found in Schedule 1 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (Armed Forces) Order 1984 (Recordable Service Offences) Act 2009 which can be found on the UKSI website.

Positive disclosures

8.1 Responding to a positive disclosure

8.1.1   Positive disclosures are when a DBS check comes back containing criminal record information. Having a criminal record does not automatically mean an individual cannot be considered for a role in the NHS.

8.1.2   The decision to recruit an individual whose criminal record check reveals a conviction, caution or other relevant information always rests with the employing organisation. This information should be carefully considered on a case-by-case basis and assessed against what other information the individual has presented during the application, interview, and employment check process. Taking this approach is important to ensure you do not unfairly rule out individuals who are the best candidate for the role, meet all other necessary check criteria, and no risks have been identified against the duties they would be required to perform.

8.1.3   If the DBS disclosure certificate simply reaffirms what the applicant has already self-disclosed to you and you have already considered this information, then you may issue an unconditional offer of employment.

8.1.2   If the recruitment decision rests with HR or another senior member of staff, then you should ensure the decision maker has access to any information that is relevant to the role being appointed to, so that they can make a fair and balanced decision. This may include the individual’s self-disclosure and any supplementary information they may have provided to support their application.

8.1.3   If the DBS check reveals information that you weren’t expecting or is conflicting with what the individual has disclosed, then further consideration may be necessary to ascertain as to why. See further guidance about considering a discrepancy in information provided through self-disclosure.

8.2 Assessing criminal record information

8.2.1   In all cases, a DBS disclosure will only provide the basic facts about the date of a conviction or other offence, the offence committed, the court, and the sentence or disposal. It will not provide any information about the circumstances surrounding the offence.

8.2.2   Employers will need to carefully consider the situation before offering any form of appointment to an individual who is:

8.2.3   Any risk assessment should carefully consider the individual’s skills, experience and ability to do the type of role being offered against the offences disclosed, taking into account the following points:

8.2.4   Any discussions at interview should be handled sensitively. The purpose of the interview is to gather information from the applicant to assess whether they may pose an ongoing risk if appointed to the role. Employers may find it useful to refer to our positive disclosure – a discussion guide which is intended to help recruiting managers follow best practice when having a conversation with an applicant who declares something on their criminal record.

8.2.5   Employers should in all cases, balance the risks associated with a criminal offence with the wider range of information obtained at the application, interview and pre-employment checking stage before making their final recruitment decision.

8.2.6   All discussions must be recorded on file; alongside clear reasons reached to appoint or reject the applicant. Information should be stored securely in line with the DBS code of practice and in accordance with data protection and GDPR requirements.

8.2.7   Information about an applicant’s criminal record should not be disclosed to anyone other than those who have a legitimate reason to know. This may include people directly responsible for the recruitment decision or the applicant’s line manager, if the offence has a bearing on their suitability to continue in their current role.

8.3 Discrepancy in information provided

8.3.1   Firstly, you need to consider whether reasonable opportunity was given to enable the individual to make a self-disclosure during the recruitment process.  There is no legal duty for applicants to provide information if they are not specifically asked to do so by an employing organisation. Model declaration form A and model declaration form B will help you to ask the right questions, at the right time and seek confirmation that individuals have understood what information is required of them, or have taken opportunity to seek advice, if that is not the case.

8.3.2   If there are significant discrepancies between the information the applicant has provided and that contained in any subsequent DBS check, it is important for the employing organisation to establish why this might be the case. The DBS code of practice states that an employer should conduct a meeting to discuss any new matters including other relevant information revealed in the DBS check with the applicant in a face to face meeting, prior to making a final recruitment decision. Any discussion must be handled sensitively and fairly without pre-judgement.

8.3.3   Given the complexity of the criminal justice system, it is easy for applicants to misunderstand what offences might be on a criminal record or the implications of those when applying for employment until a DBS check is conducted.

8.3.4   If it becomes clear from the additional information provided that the individual is unsuitable for the role being offered, then the employer will need to follow the organisations local policy on managing the withdrawal of an offer of appointment in consultation with the HR department.

8.3.5   In cases of serious misdirection, for example, if the applicant is applying for a role which involves a regulated activity from which they are barred, the employing organisation has a legal duty to make a referral to the DBS.

Legal duties to refer to the DBS

9.1.1   In some circumstances it is your legal duty to refer an individual, whether employed by yourself or supplied by an agency or contractor, to the DBS.

9.1.2   When the role involves regulated activity, you should refer an individual or seek advice on referring if:

9.1.3   The duty to refer applies even when a report has already been made to another body, such as a professional regulatory or licensing body. This helps the DBS to make sure they have all the relevant information to fully consider a case and, decide whether or not the individual needs to be added to one or both the children’s and adults barred lists.

9.1.4   A person/organisation that does not make a referral when the legal duty conditions are met will be committing an offence and, if convicted, may be subject to a fine of up to £5,000.

9.1.5   If you are unsure of your duties or how to make referral, further advice can be obtained by calling the DBS helpline on 03000 200 190.

Storage, retention and disposal of records

10.1.1 DBS disclosure certificates contain sensitive personal data and therefore employers must comply with the current data protection law  and the DBS code of practice. The code is designed to ensure that any criminal record information released is used fairly and is handled and stored appropriately.

10.1.2 Criminal record information must only be used for the specific purpose it was requested for, and with the individual’s explicit consent. The following information should be recorded and retained on ESR:

10.1.3 Any photocopied or electronically scanned copies of the disclosure certificate and self-declaration forms should be stored in secure facilities with strictly controlled access. Access should be limited to individuals  who need to use this type of information in the course of their normal duties.

10.1.4 Once a decision has been made on whether to appoint or not, the disclosure certificate should be kept in line with the DBS code of practice and data protection laws. The DBS advise holding on to criminal record information for six months after the recruitment phase, to ensure resolution of any disputes or complaints. Queries about the retention of criminal record information can be directed to the DBS Data Protection Manager by emailing dbsdataprotection@dbs.gsi.gov.uk.

Checking authenticity of disclosure certificates

11.1.1 Criminal record disclosure certificates contain several security features (as below) that can be used to verify whether a disclosure has been counterfeited or altered in any way:

11.1.2 DBS notifications sent to an employer via the e-bulk service may be transcribed by the organisation in a letter format and will not be printed on DBS secure certificate paper.

11.1.3 If you are unsure whether a DBS certificate is genuine or if you think that it may have been altered, you should contact the DBS helpline on 03000 200 190.

Work health assessments standard - Introduction

1.1 What is a work health assessment?

1.1.1   A work health assessment refers to the processes undertaken to  assess whether the individual will be in a suitable role and working environment. Its primary purpose is to help prevent work-related illnesses, injuries and the spread of disease or infection.

1.1.2   The extent of the work health assessment will be dependent on the requirements and risks associated with the role and what the impact will be on the health and wellbeing of either the individual carrying out the role and/or any patients they may have contact with.

1.2 Importance of a work health assessment

1.2.1   Employers have a duty of care to their employees to ensure that they, and their workplaces, are in line with health and safety obligations and equality law.

Work health assessments help employers to identify and consider early on, any health condition or disability that may require:

Minimum requirements

2.1 Complying with the Equality Act

2.1.1   When carrying out a work health assessment, employers must consider the requirements of the Equality Act. It is unlawful for employers to ask about an applicant’s health or disability prior to making an offer of appointment, for any reason other than the exceptional circumstances outlined within the Equality Act.

2.1.2   The Act also places a duty on employers to consider any reasonable adjustments (as far as practical) to ensure that people with disabilities are not disadvantaged during the recruitment process and, are treated fairly when considering working arrangements and the working environment.

2.1.3   Further details on the Equality Act can be found in Appendix 1.

2.2 Who to check and when

2.2.1   A work health assessment should be carried out for all individuals doing any type of work or volunteering in the NHS, including all directly paid employees, temporary workers (supplied by an agency or any other external contractor), students, trainees, and volunteers. This includes when:

2.2.2   Assessments should take place after an offer of employment but prior to the commencement of their employment / placement or training, except for individuals on work experience.

2.2.3   It is unlawful for employers to ask applicants to complete a pre-employment health questionnaire or to ask health or disability related questions as part of their application or interview process, unless circumstances are exceptional as outlined within the Equality Act.

2.2.4   Employers must make it clear to successful applicants that the offer of employment is conditional pending the completion of pre-appointment checks, including a relevant work health assessment.

2.2.5   All work health assessments must be carried out fairly, objectively and in accordance with equal opportunities legislation and good occupational health practice.

2.3 Agency/external contractor requirements

2.3.1   If a worker is supplied by an agency or other external contractor under a framework agreement, the work health assessment may be undertaken by a Safe Effective Quality Occupational Health Service (SEQOHS) accredited provider.

2.3.2   Employers must ensure that agencies are clear about what level of clearances, (including vaccination requirements) are required for different positions to avoid any unnecessary delays in making appointments. Written confirmation should be obtained from the agency to confirm that they have carried out an appropriate assessment, the worker is fit to start work, and what, if any, reasonable adjustments need to be considered.

2.3.3   Employers will only need to carry out a further work health assessment on agency workers if there is a significant change to the nature of work and/or working environment, or if there are changes to the worker’s health, as described in section 2.2 above.

2.4 The assessment process

2.4.1   The two statements below provide suggested wording for employers to include in a separate form which can go out alongside the conditional offer letter of employment.

2.4.2   The offer letter should advise the individual to complete the form and return it to the occupational health department.

2.4.3   Employers should invite all prospective employees to tick which one of the following two statements apply to them:


I am not aware that I have a health condition or disability that might impair my ability to undertake effectively the duties of the position that I have been offered.


I do have a health condition or disability that might affect my work and may require special adjustments to my work or my place of work.

2.4.4   In all cases, it will be for the occupational health practitioner (or other suitably trained professional depending on local protocol) to ascertain whether there are any additional requirements or reasonable adjustments, that should be considered to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the individual and/or any patients they may be providing services to/or will have contact with. In more difficult or complex cases, successful applicants may need to be assessed by the occupational health service.

2.4.5   Occupational health will then process this information and send a clearance certificate to human resources to confirm the following:

2.4.6   If no recommendations have been made by occupational health, the process should end at this point, and the appointment decision confirmed with the individual.

2.5 Considering reasonable adjustments

2.5.1   The Equality Act places a duty on employers to make reasonable adjustments for applicants or employees who have a disability.

2.5.2   The aim of making reasonable adjustments is to reduce as far as possible, any significant disadvantages that may be presented to an individual with a disability that would not affect an able-bodied person. This may include reviewing how the employment is structured, removal of physical barriers or providing additional support to the individual, such as:

2.5.3  In most cases, adjustments will be easy and inexpensive to implement. Further information about the factors employers will need to consider can be found in Appendix 1. Additional guidance on making reasonable adjustments can be found on the Equality and Human Rights Commission website and there are many examples of adjustments detailed in guidance available on the NHS Employers website.  

2.6 Access to Work Scheme

2.6.1   Employers may also wish to consider the Access to Work Scheme to help them decide what steps they might need to take. In some cases, financial assistance is made available through the scheme which will help the employer take steps which may have otherwise been unreasonably expensive to consider.

2.6.2   Further information about Access to Work can be found on the gov.uk website.

2.7 Risk assessment

2.7.1   Employers are also legally required to undertake the necessary assessments to effectively manage any risks to the health and safety of employees, patients, and others on their premises, under the Health and Safety Act. A risk assessment should:

2.7.2   For more information on managing risk visit the health and wellbeing section of the NHS Employers website.

Additional considerations

3.1 Immunisations: requirements for healthcare workers

3.1.1   Employers have an obligation to ensure that healthcare workers do not pose a risk of infection to patients. Similarly, it is essential to ensure that workers are protected from infection by patients.

3.1.2   The requirements to ensure immunisation against common communicable infections and biological hazards will be dependent on the individual’s role and the risks of exposure that their role may pose.

3.1.3   Employers must refer to the Department of Health and Social Care’s Green Book which sets out the standards that determine which vaccinations are required for different healthcare workers.

3.1.4   Health professionals and immunisation practitioners themselves can register to receive a vaccine update from Public Health England on vaccination requirements.

3.1.5   Further information relating to infectious diseases and their prevention can also be found on the NICE website.

3.2 Exposure prone procedures

3.2.1   Additional screening may be needed for workers involved in exposure prone procedures (EPPs), patient care, patient contact or body fluid sample handling. This screening should be relevant to the job hazard and risk profile and, must be undertaken in accordance with the relevant guidance.

3.2.2   Individuals carrying out EPPs have a professional duty to ensure that they are tested and assessed for HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. If at any time they should acquire or be at risk of acquiring any of these infections, they must refrain from carrying out any work that involves an EPP and inform (in confidence) a member of their occupational health team. All testing must be carried out with the individual’s informed consent.

3.3 Additional screening

3.3.1   Employers have the discretion to undertake further supplementary screening, dependent on their local needs and risks associated with different roles. Additional screening must be carried out in accordance with the Equality Act.

3.3.2   Further guidance about supplementary health screening can be found on the health and wellbeing section of the NHS Employers website.

Decision making

4.1.1   Occupational health has a duty to provide specialist and confidential advice to both the prospective employee and the employer.

4.1.2   The decision to appoint an individual ultimately sits with the recruiting manager, therefore they will need to ensure that:

4.1.3   If the recruiting manager chooses to appoint an individual, despite concerns being expressed by the occupational health service, the manager will need to record their justification for any such decision.

Withdrawal of appointment

5.1.1   No individual should be refused employment on health grounds unless:

Retaining and transferring health records

6.1.1   Health assessment information should not form part of an individual’s personnel record for reasons of confidentiality, but should be retained separately on their electronic staff record or other personnel record system only accessible by the occupational health service, in line with data protection requirements. It is permitted for reports or summaries to be held on an individual’s personnel record, where this has been agreed with the individual.

6.1.2   Employers must refer to Records Management Code of Practice for health and social care which can be found on the NHS England website. The Code provides a framework for consistent and effective records management based on established standards.

Professional registration and qualification checks standard - Introduction

1.1 What is a professional registration and qualification check?

1.1.1   Professional registration and qualification checks are carried out to assure that individuals are qualified and competent to perform the role.  This involves verifying that the individual:

1.1.2   In all cases, only the qualifications that form part of the requirements for the position being applied for will need to be verified.

1.2 Importance of professional registration and qualification checks

1.2.1   Professional regulation is intended to protect the public, ensuring that those who practice in a particular profession are committed to providing high standards of care.

1.2.2   There are currently eight main regulatory bodies in health, with more than one million health professionals on their registers. Their main functions include:

1.2.3   Qualification checks verify the information about the individual’s educational and/or professional qualifications outlined in their application form. This verification helps to ensure the individual is capable of carrying out the role.

Professional registration checks

2.1 Minimum requirements

2.1.1   Employers must check the registration of all healthcare professionals with the appropriate regulatory body before allowing the individual to start employment. This will verify that:

2.1.2   Employers must have the consent of the individual and their registration number to check their registration and fitness to practise.

2.1.3   Checking an individual’s professional registration in itself does not guarantee their suitability for a role, employers must always seek the necessary assurances by carrying out the full range of checks outlined in the other NHS Employment Check Standards.

2.1.4   Where relevant to the role, it should be made a contractual condition for individual’s to maintain any registration that might be relevant to their profession for the full term of employment.

2.1.5   It will also be essential for employers to have appropriate mechanisms in place to respond to any actions that a regulatory body may take which would affect an individual’s registration or fitness to practise.  

2.1.6   Further information about how to check registration, license and fitness to practise with each of the regulatory bodies can be found via the links below:

General Medical Council (GMC)

General Dental Council (GDC)

Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)

General Optical Council (GOC)

Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)

General Chiropractic Council (GCC)

General Pharmaceutical Council (GphC)

General Osteopathic Council (GOsC)

2.1.7   Employers must also check that there is no known information held about registered healthcare professionals on the healthcare professional alert notice (HPAN) system. If an individual is subject to an alert notice, then employers must check whether there are any restrictions which would prevent them from undertaking the duties of the role, before allowing them to commence employment. See further information about the HPAN system in section 6.

2.2 Recruiting from the European Union (EU)

2.2.1   Following the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020, the EU Directive on the Recognition of Professional Qualifications (which enabled healthcare professional regulators to recognise certain EEA-awarded professional qualifications with minimal barriers via a near-automatic system) no longer applies in the UK.

2.2.2   The Department of Health and Social Care has been working with professional regulatory bodies to review registration arrangements for applications from holders of EEA qualifications. A report on the review was published on 29th June 2023 confirming that EEA professional qualifications will continue to be recognised under standstill arrangements for a temporary period of five years. The Department will determine whether to carry out a further review of the operation of the standstill provisions in 5 years’ time, as part of its wider programme of regulatory reform.

2.2.3   As such, UK healthcare professional regulators will continue to recognise EEA qualifications listed in the EU Directive as evidence of skills, knowledge and experience regardless of the individual’s country of origin for a temporary period of five years from 29th June 2023.

2.2.4   Different arrangements are in place for Swiss nationals, who benefit from a four year grace period from 01 January 2021 during which they will be treated in the same way as pre-31/12/20 EEA individuals based on their nationality, not their place of qualification.

2.2.5   Professional regulatory bodies will continue to assess and approve any qualification that is not entitled to automatic recognition. Employers should be extra vigilant in checking applications from an individual with EEA professional registration and qualifications, to ensure they are appropriately registered and qualified to undertake the type and range of duties required for a particular role.

2.2.6   EEA-qualified healthcare professionals who were registered to practise in the UK prior to the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020 continue to have their recognition decision acknowledged.

2.3 Unregulated practitioners

2.3.1  The Accredited Registers programme, managed by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA), offers employers a way to ensure that practitioners who are not regulated by law still meet high standards in education, skills and behaviour.

2.3.2  The programme provides employers with access to online registers of practitioners who have been vetted. Employers can make informed decisions when recruiting, with the assurance that new employees have the necessary qualifications and experience to provide safe and effective care to patients. They have also signed up to ethical standards and professional codes of conduct.

2.3.3  The PSA assesses organisations holding registers of practitioners working in unregulated roles to make sure they meet their Standards of Accredited Registers. The Standards align to those of the statutory regulators, in areas such as governance, registration and complaints handling. While Accredited Registers cannot prevent someone from practising or using a title, they can issue sanctions to protect the public, including exclusion (‘strike off’) from a register and making this information publicly available.

2.3.4  While not compulsory for unregulated practitioners to be on an Accredited Register, there are benefits for employers choosing to recruit from practitioners on a Register. There are also benefits to employers in encouraging employees to join a Register; these includes practitioners having access to professional standards for their occupation, a continuing professional development (CPD) framework and professional networking opportunities with their peers. Many organisations holding Accredited Registers are also professional bodies.

2.3.5  Employers should carry out the same level of checks to verify the registration of healthcare professionals on the Accredited Registers as they would for any other healthcare professional on a statutory register.

2.3.6  For some unregulated roles, the NHS is starting to require registration with specific Accredited Registers as a condition of employment. This is the case for some psychological professional roles that are not regulated by law.

2.3.7  The PSA continually assesses and accredits new Registers, bringing more unregulated roles into the assurance framework that the programme provides. Employers can identify and refer to relevant Accredited Registers within job adverts and personal specifications to ensure they do not prevent appropriately registered individuals from being considered for a role.

2.3.8  The PSA Check a Practitioner tool is a useful way to find out who is on an Accredited Register.

Qualification checks

3.1 Minimum requirements

3.1.1   Employers need to identify which qualifications are essential or desirable for any given role. The criteria for each job role, and any flexibility around what might be essential or desirable, should be agreed between human resources and the recruiting manager prior to advertising, to ensure a fair and consistent approach to the recruitment process.

3.1.2   The purpose of a qualification check is to verify the educational and/or professional qualification information provided by the individual as part of their application.  Employers must ensure that individuals hold professional and/or educational qualifications that are essential for the role. You have the discretion to accept other qualifications or experience which may be equivalent to any predefined requirements.

3.1.3   In the case of recruiting registered healthcare professionals, regulatory and licensing bodies will have undertaken checks to validate that they have the relevant qualifications to be on their register and can practise in their chosen profession. Additional checks on qualifications to practise are not normally necessary, but employers must ensure they validate any other qualifications which are prescribed as essential to the role they are appointing to.

3.1.4   Employers must:

3.1.5   It is important to ensure that sufficient time is factored into the recruitment process to allow for obtaining qualification information, to avoid any unnecessary delays in recruitment.

3.1.6   Individuals may not always have the original documentation. In such cases, employers will need to make an appropriate risk-based assessment to the priority given to that qualification in the person specification, and the assurances that may need to be gained as part of the check process.

3.1.7   Where there is any discrepancy or concern about the authenticity of documentation provided by an individual, employers may wish to contact the awarding body directly. This could be used to confirm attendance on the course stipulated by the individual and the grade awarded. Employers will be required to provide a copy of the individual’s consent to obtain any such information.

3.1.8   For qualifications awarded by a body outside of the UK, advice may be sought from the relevant country’s UK embassy, consulate or high commission. Contact details for UK based embassies, consulates and high commissions can be found on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website.

3.1.9   UK ENIC has a Statement of Comparability which compares overseas qualifications to the UK education system, UK qualifications and framework levels. If there are doubts about whether an overseas qualification or its UK equivalent is genuine, further information can be obtained through the UK ENIC website.

3.1.10 For more serious concerns about suspected qualification fraud, employers can:

Assessing language competency

4.1.1   All public facing roles require a proportionate level of English language proficiency for written and verbal communication.

4.1.2   Employers are encouraged to regularly review HR policies and practice to ensure they are in line with the Code of practice on the English language requirement for public sector workers section of the gov.uk website.

4.1.3   Regulatory bodies set their own professional standards including the requirement for each healthcare professional to communicate effectively with patients and colleagues. Further information and guidance can be found on their respective websites.

4.1.4  Registration with a regulatory body alone does not guarantee that the registrant has the clinical or language skills to perform the role. Employers remain responsible for assuring that the individual has the necessary linguistic skills, as well as the necessary clinical skills and relevant qualifications, to undertake the role.

4.1.5  If an individual provides evidence to demonstrate their level of language competence by having passed an English language competency test, we recommend you use the available online systems provided by the relevant accredited body to verify the results. IELTS results can be verified by registering for their free online checking system and to verify OET results, the individual can give a prospective employer permission to verify their results through their OET account. The employer must be registered to access the OET results verification portal for this to be possible, to register for free you should complete the online form.

Withdrawal of a provisional offer of employment

5.1.1   Employers must make it clear to individuals that any offer of appointment is conditional and based on satisfactory registration and qualification checks.

5.1.2   You must also explain that:

Healthcare professional alert notices

6.1.1   A healthcare professional alert notice (HPAN) is a system where notices are issued by NHS Resolution to inform NHS bodies, or other organisations providing services to the NHS, about registered health professionals whose conduct or practise would pose a significant risk of harm to patients, staff, or the public.

6.1.2   It will also confirm if that individual may continue to work or seek additional or other work in the NHS as a healthcare professional. Or whether that person falsely holds themselves out to be a healthcare professional.

6.1.3   When recruiting registered healthcare professionals, employers must check that there is no known information held about them on the alert notice system as well as checking their professional registration. If an individual is subject to an alert notice, employers must check whether there are any restrictions which would prevent them from undertaking the duties of the role in question, prior to allowing them to take up the appointment.

6.1.4   Employers can apply for access to the Performers List and Healthcare Professional Web Check Service, which will allow them to check whether an individual is subject to an active HPAN.

6.1.5   Further information on how to check whether an individual is subject of an HPAN and the process to raise a HPAN where concerns about a healthcare professional’s performance, conduct or practise comes to light, can be found on the NHS Resolution website.

Right to work checks standard - Introduction

1.1 Importance of right to work checks

1.1.1   A right to work check determines whether an individual has the legal right and permission to work in the UK.

1.1.2   Employers risk facing a civil penalty if they are found to be employing an illegal worker and they haven’t carried out a correct right to work check. A civil penalty can be anything up to £20,000 per illegal worker. Criminal sanctions may also apply where the employer is found to have knowingly appointed or continues to employ an individual who does not have a right to work in the UK.

1.1.3   The Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 (amended by the Immigration Act 2016) provides employers with a statutory excuse against a civil penalty where they can clearly demonstrate that they have carried out all the necessary checks to mitigate any risks of employing illegal workers.

Minimum requirements

2.1 Who requires a right to work check and when?

2.1.1   Employers must carry out a right to work check on all successful applicants before they can be allowed to take up employment.

2.1.2   No assumption should be made about an individual’s right to work on the grounds of colour, race, nationality, ethnic or national origins, accent, or the length of time they have been resident in the UK.

2.1.3   In the event that an employer is found to be employing an illegal worker, they would not be liable for a civil penalty if they can prove they conducted the appropriate checks set out in Home Office guidance. This is called a statutory excuse.

2.1.4   There are three types of right to work check:

2.1.5   The type of check an employer should conduct will depend on the status of the individual you intend to employ and, in some circumstances, the individual’s preference. See sections 2.2 online checks, 2.3 using an IDSP and 2.4 manual checks  for more information.

2.2 Online Home Office checks

2.2.1   Non-British and non-Irish nationals wishing to work in the UK can confirm their right to work through the Home Office online checking portal, the digital service supports checks in respect of those who hold:

2.2.2   Individuals will provide a prospective employer with their share code so that employers can check their right to work status digitally instead of requiring them to present documentary evidence. The share code is generated when the individual accesses their details online.

2.2.3   Since 06 April 2022, it has been mandatory for holders of the Biometric Residence Card (BRC), a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) and Frontier Work Permit (FWP) to evidence right to work using the Home Office checking portal. Employers are no longer be able to accept physical biometric cards for BRC, BRP and FWP holders to evidence right to work.

2.2.4   Where employers can evidence that they have undertaken a right to work check using the Home Office online portal and have confirmed that the photograph on the check is of the individual presenting themselves for work, this will provide them with a statutory excuse. The same follow up checks must be undertaken where the individual’s right to work status indicates that they have limited leave to remain.

2.2.5   Further details about how the Home Office online portal works can be found on the gov.uk website.

2.3 Using an Identity Service Provider (IDSP)

2.3.1   British and Irish nationals are now able to confirm their right to work through a new digital system, the legislation took effect from 06 April 2022. The digital checks of right to work allow employers to verify British and Irish nationals’ eligibility to work, via a certified third party IDSP, without having to check physical documents.

2.3.2   Employers will still be required to confirm that the photograph provided to the third-party provider they use is a true likeness of the prospective employee. This can be in person or via a video call, as outlined in Home Office guidance. You must also retain a clear copy of the identity check output for the duration of employment and for two years after the employment has come to an end.

2.3.3   There will be occasions where a digital right to work check for British and Irish citizens will not be possible and you will be required to carry out a manual check of the document described in section 2.4 to obtain a statutory excuse e.g. if an individual is reliant upon an expired British or Irish passport. See Home Office guidance for more information about the documents required for the purposes of verifying right to work digitally via a certified third party provider.

2.3.4   A list of certified providers is available on the gov.uk website and employers interested in procuring a certified provider can engage directly with those providers.

2.3.5   Should an employer choose to use an IDSP they will need to become familiar with the regulations, and to ensure that staff involved in arranging identity and right to work checks have the necessary training on for example, what information they must obtain from the third party to confirm a candidate’s identity; what the information can be used for; and what other requirements they still need to fulfil to establish eligibility to work.

2.3.6   Find out more about verifying right to work digitally via a certified third party provider in the Home Office employer’s guide to right to work checks.

2.4 Manual checks

2.4.1   It will not be possible to conduct an online or digital right to work check in all circumstances, as not all individuals will have an immigration status that can be checked online or digitall, or in some circumstances an individual may choose not to demonstrate their right to work using the online or digital services. In such cases employers should conduct a manual check.

2.4.2   When conducting manual checks, there are three steps that employers must take to confirm an individual has the right to work in the UK:

  1. Obtain the person’s original documents from List A or List B of the acceptable documentary evidence as outlined in section 2.5.
  2. Check all documentary evidence with the holder to verify that the documents are genuine, that the individual is the rightful owner of those documents, and they are permitted to do the type of work being offered.
  3. Make a clear copy of all documentary evidence seen and record the date of the check (documents may be photocopied or scanned and uploaded onto the electronic staff record (ESR) or other internal HR system).

2.4.3   Employers should retain all copies securely for the duration of the individual’s employment, and for at least two years after the employment has come to an end. Copies of personal information must only be retained for the purpose of establishing a statutory excuse and retained in line with data protection laws. This includes ensuring you have a documented lawful basis for processing any data as per the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) guidance.

2.4.4   Employers will need to refer to Home Office guidance which can be found on the gov.uk website:

2.5 Acceptable right to work documents

2.5.1   The Home Office provides guidance which outlines the type and range of acceptable right to work documents (List A and List B) that must be obtained and verified to prove an individual’s right to work in the UK.

2.5.2   Employers must see:


2.5.3   You must not accept any other documents or combination of documents other than those stipulated by the Home Office in Lists A and B to retain a statutory excuse.

2.5.4   All documents must be original and show that the holder is entitled to do the type of work being offered.

2.5.5   Those that contain an expiry date should be valid and current. Photocopies and documents downloaded from the internet must not be accepted. There are a small number of exceptions to the valid and current rule, which include an out-of-date UK passport.

2.5.6   An indefinite leave to remain stamp in an expired passport must not be accepted.  Where an individual presents an expired passport with indefinite leave to remain, employers should provide the individual with opportunity to obtain and provide current documents, such as a Biometric Residence Permit.

2.5.7   Please consult the most up-to-date UK Visas and Immigration employer’s guide for further information if you are unsure what can be accepted.

2.6 Frequency of checks

2.6.1   Employers are required to carry out an initial right to work check to prevent illegal working on all individuals they intend to employ. Once you have completed this check, you will be required to carry out follow-up right to work checks if the individual’s permission to be in the UK and to do the work in question is time-limited to ensure you retain a statutory excuse. There are two categories of statutory excuse:

Document type

Excuse type

Frequency of checks

List A


Before employment starts only. No further checks are required for the duration of their employment.

List B – Group 1


Before employment starts and again when permission expires (as indicated within the document presented).

List B – Group 2


Before employment starts and again after six months, as set out in the Positive Verification Notice (see section on in-time applications below).

2.6.2   It is crucial that employers record the date of any follow-up checks required on employees who have limited leave to remain in the UK, and that these checks are completed at the correct time to retain a statutory excuse.

2.6.3   The statutory excuse will continue for a further period of up to 28 days from the expiry date given in the employee’s document, where you can obtain the necessary assurances that they:


2.6.4   Where relevant, it should be made a contractual condition for the individual to maintain their right to work status for the full term of employment. They must immediately notify the employer if their immigration status changes, or they cease to have the right to work in the UK.

2.7 In-time applications

2.7.1   An employee’s application for further immigration permission to stay in the UK must be made before their existing permission expires for it to be deemed in-time. Any right to work will continue until the outcome of the application is determined.

2.7.2   Employers must:

2.7.3   The Home Office will then issue you with a positive verification notice which confirms that the named individual is permitted to carry out the type of work in question. Positive verification notices are valid for a period of six months from the issue date.

2.7.4   Employers are required to take copies of all documentary evidence, including the positive verification notice, to retain a statutory excuse.

2.8 Validating, copying, and storing documents

2.8.1   When validating documents presented by individuals, you must check that:

2.8.2   Employers must keep a record of every document checked. This can be hardcopy or a scanned copy in a format which cannot be manually altered. A record of the date on which a check was made must be retained, either by making a dated declaration on the copy (using the wording ‘the date on which this right to work check was made: [insert date]’ or in a separate record, held securely, which can be shown to the Home Office upon request to establish your statutory excuse. For Home Office purposes, simply writing a date on the copy document does not, in itself, confirm that this is the actual date when the check was undertaken.

2.8.3   In the case of a passport or other travel document, the following parts must be photocopied or scanned:

2.8.4   Keep a record of every document you have copied in line with data protection laws. Copies of the documents should be kept securely for the duration of the individual’s employment and for a further two years after their employment has ceased. The person taking the copy must sign and date it to show it has been certified.

Employment history and reference checks standard - introduction

1.1 What is an employment history and reference check?1.1.1   An employment history and reference check is the process to verify information provided by an individual as part of their application. It gives employers a better picture about the individual’s previous employment, training and/or other activities undertaken out in the community, such as volunteer work, which can help confirm a recruitment decision.

1.2 Importance of an employment history and reference check1.2.1   While there is no legal requirement for employing organisations to provide references about people who are or were in their employment, employers have a duty of care to both patients and staff to ensure that all reasonable checks are undertaken to ascertain a person’s suitability for the role.  

1.2.2   Over the years, data protection law has had a significant impact on the type of information employers are likely to agree to provide in response to a reference request. Employers have a duty to ensure that any information they share about workers and former employees is a fair and true reflection of their performance and suitability (for example, does not include personal opinions or views which may be regarded as subjective). This standard outlines the minimum information employers should aim to request or provide as part of a factual employment history and/or other reference request.

1.2.3   To comply with data protection under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) 2018, employers should ensure that all workers are aware that it is the organisation’s policy to only provide factual references.

1.2.3   Employers may also want to take the opportunity to clarify what type of information might be shared about individuals as part of a reference, for instance this could be explained to the individual when conducting an exit interview.

Minimum requirements2.1 When to seek a reference2.1.1   Factual references should be routinely sought as part of the selection process for all appointments in the NHS.

2.1.2   Reference requests should be made after the interview process has taken place and once a provisional offer of appointment has been made. In certain circumstances it may be deemed reasonable and proportionate to seek references prior to interview, for example, when making senior appointments, such as medical consultants or board members. Applicants must be informed in writing when obtaining references at an earlier stage in the recruitment process.

2.1.3   In all cases, the new employer must seek the individual’s permission before obtaining a reference from their current employer, as they may not have informed them of their intentions to leave the organisation.

2.1.4   References should never be used as the sole grounds for assessing an individual’s suitability for a post. Decisions to appoint should be made based on the wider range of information gathered as part of the recruitment process. This may include interviews, psychometric tests or other forms of selection assessments that may be relevant and proportionate to the role being appointed to.

2.2 How to seek a reference2.2.1   Employment and/or training history should be obtained in writing (either via hardcopy, email, or fax). Emailed confirmation from employers/charity bodies or training institutions should be sent from a recognised email address.

2.2.2   All references must include the referee’s name, job title and a main landline number, so you can be assured that both the referee and the organisation are bona fide.

2.2.3   Using a standardised reference request template can help referees to identify what information they need to provide more easily. This can significantly reduce the time it takes them to provide a response and speeds up the new employers’ ability to appoint. It can also help ensure a level of consistency of information provided about each applicant, and in ensuring information is relevant, factual, and justifiable in all cases.

2.2.4   Employers must also make sure that any questions posed about an individual’s health or disability are in line with the provisions outlined in the Equality Act 2010, see further information in the work health assessments standard. There are several template documents provided which are intended to help employers avoid any challenge of discrimination in this regard. These can be found in section 7 of this standard (Other resources) under 'Templates'.

2.2.5   Employers may set up the reference interface provided by their preferred recruitment software, such as NHS Jobs, TRAC or electronic staff record (ESR), to reflect the suggested templates.

2.2.6   For board member appointments, NHS England has issued a standard reference template that employers are required to use after a provisional offer of employment has been made. Refer to section 2.7 on senior appointments for additional guidance.  

2.3 Information to be sought2.3.1   The NHS application form should require individuals to outline their full employment and/or training history. It should also require them to explain any gaps between periods of employment and training. Any unexplained gaps or discrepancies in employment or training history should be explored during the interview process.

2.3.2   The above does not apply to those undertaking voluntary roles, due to a change in legislation (January 2024) which removed the statutory requirement for obtaining a full employment history in respect of volunteer workers. However, employers can still request a full employment history from volunteers should they deem it appropriate to.

2.3.3   For new appointments from outside of the NHS, employers should seek the necessary references to validate a period of three consecutive years* of employment and/or training immediately prior to the application being made. The number and type of references obtained for each applicant may vary, depending on whether the individual has held employment or has studied for a consecutive period of three years and/or how many episodes of employment or training they may have had during this time. See section 3 for more information on the other types of references that may be required under specific circumstances. *Please note there are different validation requirements for board member appointments, see section 2.7.

2.3.4   References should aim to provide details of:

where the individual has been employed/volunteered, or has studiedthe dates of employment/volunteering, or duration of studythe position held or, course undertakenany recent or ongoing disciplinary action or referralsthe reasons for leaving employment, training or study (where this is known).2.3.5   Additional guidance is provided in section 2.8, if, for any reason, it is not possible to validate a consecutive period of three years employment and/or training.

2.3.6   For board member appointments, NHS England has issued a standard reference template that employers are required to use. Additional guidance is provided in section 2.7 on senior appointments.

2.4 Moving from one NHS organisation to another2.4.1   If an individual is moving from another NHS organisation, employers must, as a minimum, seek to obtain a reference from the individual’s current or last NHS employer. Employers may decide to obtain additional references covering a longer period where this is relevant and likely to add value in confirming their recruitment decision. There is an element of discretion here for employers to do this should they choose.

2.5 Existing staff changing roles internally2.5.1   If the individual is changing roles internally within the same organisation or is working in the organisation’s internal staff bank, all effort should be made to minimise risk. The recruiting manager should contact the human resources department to verify that all details recorded about the individual on the electronic staff record (ESR) / or other personnel management system are up to date, and that there is no relevant information on their personnel record that may need to be considered against their suitability for the new role. Additional information may be sought through their current line manager, where this is regarded as necessary to confirm the recruitment decision.

2.6 Doctors in training2.6.1   Doctors on rotational training programmes are regarded as being in continuous employment for their full period of training. Employers should use their discretion when deciding the frequency and number of references required when seeking ongoing assurances about a doctor’s conduct. Employers may find it useful to obtain information from the most recent Record of In-training Assessment (RITA) or Annual Review of Competence Progression (ARCP). Obtaining additional references should be proportionate to risk.

2.7 Senior appointments2.7.1   Under the fit and proper person requirement (FPPR) available on the CQC website, organisations must be able to demonstrate that the necessary pre-employment checks have been undertaken on all staff in senior level positions.  

2.7.2   The NHS England fit and proper person test framework (the FPPT framework), launched in August 2023 in response to The Kark review, sets out what is specifically required of organisations to confirm that an individual in a board member position is fit and proper, including the provision and uptake of references.

2.7.3   Under the FPPT framework, organisations are required to complete and retain a board member reference (standardised template issued by NHS England) when an individual leaves a board member role whether or not it has been requested by a new organisation. It is expected that a future update to ESR will enable the reference to be retained in the system but until such time it should be retained in a relevant personnel management system. Further guidance about providing a board member reference under the requirements of the FPPT framework is available on the NHS England website.

2.7.4   When appointing to a board member position, under the FPPT framework you are required to seek references to validate a period of six consecutive years of employment immediately prior to the application being made. Organisations must use the standard board member reference template issued by NHS England. Further scenario-based guidance about obtaining board member references under the requirements of the FPPT framework is available on the NHS England website.

2.7.5   In addition, for all senior level appointment the NHS Standard for employment history and reference checks recommends carrying out a free online check against the Companies House register and the Charity Commission’s register of removed trustees. These checks can be used to provide assurances that individuals have not been disqualified and/or are not subject to restrictions which would prevent them from being considered for a director level position.

2.7.6   You may also wish to carry out a finance check when considering senior appointments. It is important to note that interpreting the implications of financial information will require a far greater degree of judgment than the checks outlined in the NHS Employment check standards. We would therefore recommend that any such checks are managed under the organisation’s local security policy. Further information on finance checks can be found in the FAQ section on the NHS Employers website.

2.7.7   For more information about the requirements of the FPPT framework additional guidance is available on the NHS England website.

2.8 What to do if an employer reference is unobtainable2.8.1   There may be a number of reasons as to why an individual cannot provide you with a referee from a previous employer. For example, this may be because the individual has never worked before, or they have not worked for some considerable time, or their previous employer has ceased trading. In such cases, we would recommend that you seek a reference from their last known employer and source additional character or personal references to validate the required three-year period.

2.8.2   If the individual’s previous employer refuses to provide a reference, you may seek the necessary assurances by obtaining a character or personal reference. Where limited references are available, the decision to appoint must be based on what the individual can reasonably provide to support their application.

2.9 Negative references2.9.1   Where negative issues are included in a reference, information should be carefully considered and weighed up against the wider range of evidence gathered as part of the recruitment process.

2.9.2   It’s important to note that an individual’s circumstances may change over time and no assumptions should be made about the individual’s suitability for another role in a different setting.

2.9.3   Employers should aim to investigate negative information by sensitively raising it with the individual concerned, giving them opportunity to explain the situation in more detail and/or, where appropriate, give them chance to outline any learning from past mistakes or experiences to obtain the necessary assurances about their suitability for a role.

2.9.4   Where, necessary, employers may wish to seek additional references, as outlined in the section 3, to help validate their decision to appoint.

Other types of reference3.1 Character/personal references3.1.1   Character and personal references can provide invaluable information to help build up a picture of the individual’s reliability, social skills, and experiences. They may also be useful to further support an application if the individual has a previous criminal record history or where they genuinely cannot provide a previous employer reference, for example, because their previous employer has ceased trading. They can also provide additional information to support a person’s application where the employer reference outlines that the individual has left because of an irretrievable breakdown in relationships.

3.1.2   Asking specific questions will be helpful in ensuring the referee provides you with accurate and factual information. These questions could include how long they have known the applicant, in what capacity they have known them, and what skills/experience the individual has demonstrated that might be regarded as valuable attributes for the position they are applying for.

3.1.3   Character and personal references should be sought from personal acquaintances that are not related to the individual, and who do not hold any financial arrangements with the individual. Personal acquaintances may include professors, academic advisors, or someone of some standing in the individual’s community. Further guidance about persons of some standing in the community can be found on the gov.uk website.

3.1.4   If an employee of your organisation is approached to give a character or personal reference, it is advisable for them to clarify that the information they are providing is based on their relationship with the applicant in a personal capacity. Such references are not required to be presented on headed paper or with the organisation’s stamp.

3.2 Volunteer activity reference3.2.1   Where the individual has indicated that they have undertaken volunteer work, references may be sought through the relevant charity body or organisation hosting that activity.

3.3 Training history reference3.3.1   If the individual has indicated that they have left or are leaving full-time education, references to validate their training history should be sought from the individual's professor, academic tutor or head teacher using template 4 as an example.

3.4 Self-employment reference3.4.1   For periods of self-employment, references should be sought to confirm that the individual’s business was properly conducted. This may include seeking information from customers or clients, bankers, accountants, HM Revenue and Customs, or Companies House.

3.5 Overseas references3.5.1   As part of the application process, individuals should be required to give a reasonable account of any significant periods of time spent overseas. A significant period is defined as a continuous period of six months or more spent overseas.

3.5.2   If the individual has declared that they have been employed (including volunteering activities or time served in the armed forces), or have trained overseas, every effort should be made to seek adequate references from the relevant body as early in the recruitment process as possible to prevent any unnecessary delays in making the appointment.

3.5.3   In some European countries, employees are issued with a government-issued labour book which contains information about their employment history. If individual’s present a labour book, employers may accept information presented within this document instead of seeking a separate reference directly from their employer.

3.5.4   Confirmation of dates should be cross-referenced with documentary evidence provided by the individual such as a passport, work permit or other documentary evidence confirming their travel and immigration status.

3.5.5   Every effort should be made to ensure that documents presented by individuals are verified as bona fide through the relevant issuing body. Where this is not possible, these may be verified through the country’s relevant UK embassy or consulates. Further information can be found on the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office website or by telephoning 020 7008 1500.

3.5.6   If an individual is unable to provide sufficient documentary evidence of time spent abroad, employers will need to consider what additional assurances may be gained at interview, or through evidence of other relevant training and experience in the UK. Where the necessary checks cannot be undertaken, or sufficient assurances are not available, it may not be possible to employ the individual. Employers will need to have policies in place to manage any withdrawal of an offer of employment.

3.5.7   Employers are advised to allow extra time in their recruitment process when requesting references from overseas as they will need to be translated.

3.6 Armed forces references3.6.1   Individuals from the armed forces should possess a Certificate of Service under cover of an official letter. Where the individual can present this, employers may accept this instead of needing to request a separate factual reference.

3.6.2   Certificates of service contain security marks such as holograms and therefore employers should verify these in the same way as any other official documentation.

Retaining and recording information4.1.1   Information relating to an employee’s appointment must be recorded on ESR or another relevant personnel management system in line with current data protection law.  

4.1.2   Any information gathered must be retained for the minimum periods outlined within the codes of practice for handling information in health and social care which can be found on the NHS England website.

4.1.3   There are many reasons why a reference may be labelled as confidential, e.g. it may contain details of disciplinary action, misconduct, or safeguarding concerns. If a reference is marked as confidential, data protection law creates an exemption enabling both the employer who issued it and the employer receiving it not to share a copy of the reference with the applicant.

Discrepancy in information provided5.1.1   From time to time the information provided in a reference may contradict the information provided by an individual in their application. There may be a reasonable explanation for apparent discrepancies and employers should proceed sensitively to seek the necessary assurances directly with the individual.

5.1.2   In exceptional circumstances where there is serious misdirection, employers may feel it appropriate to report their concerns to the NHS Counter Fraud Authority. Employers can:

call the NHS Fraud and Corruption Reporting Line on (freephone) 0800 028 40 60 (lines are open 8am-5pm Monday to Friday)fill in the online reporting form on the NHS Counter Fraud Authority websiteask their organisation’s local counter fraud specialist (LCFS) for advice. Each organisation should have a nominated LCFS.Responding to requests for information6.1.1   Requests for employment history should be dealt with by the human resources department or other relevant personnel function. This is to remove the risk of an individual directing the new employer to someone who may provide inaccurate or fraudulent information.

6.1.2   Should additional information be required to verify skills and experience (due to the nature of the job being applied for) this should be indicated on the reference request and the human resources department should refer this to the right person in the organisation who can provide this information.

6.1.3   It is recommended that employers provide information about their policy on providing references on their main website and intranet. This should set out who can provide references, in what circumstances, and the type of information that will be provided.

6.1.4   Setting up a dedicated email address for incoming reference requests will be helpful to avoid any unnecessary delays in managing and responding to reference requests which may otherwise be misdirected to line managers.

6.1.5   Any local policy should be well communicated to all workers so that they understand what information will be shared about them, and who they can nominate as a referee when they apply for a job.

Download Policy:

Download Policy 2:

Relevant review:

Workforce planning and recruitment
Our thoughts: