Work to rule: Criminal Records Bureau checks

The correct procedure for recruiting staff to work with vulnerable people.

The Criminal Records Bureau helps to identify job candidates who might be unsuitable for certain work, particularly employment involving close or regular contact with children and vulnerable adults.

The process of getting criminal records information from the CRB is known as 'application for disclosure'. CRB disclosures complement existing recruitment practices and should be sought only after candidates have been given provisional offers of employment or voluntary positions. Successful candidates are asked to fill in CRB application forms, which employers then send to the CRB for processing.

Standard disclosures contain details of any spent and unspent convictions, as well as cautions, reprimands and warnings recorded by the police. If individuals are applying for positions that involve working with children, standard disclosures also reveal whether they are barred from working with children or vulnerable adults.

Enhanced disclosures are available for those involved in regularly caring for, training, supervising or being in sole charge of people aged under 18 or vulnerable adults. Enhanced disclosures contain the same details as standard disclosures and can also contain non-conviction information from local police records that chief police officers think might be relevant.

The explanatory guide to the CRB code of practice gives some guidance about the factors employers might take into account when deciding whether or not to withdraw conditional offers of employment or to dismiss existing employees. Matters to consider include whether convictions or other matters are relevant to the positions in question; the seriousness of the matters and the length of time since they occurred; whether applicants have patterns of offending behaviour and whether their circumstances have changed since the offending behaviour; and the circumstances surrounding the offences and the explanations offered by the convicted persons.

It is advisable for charities to have written policies on the recruitment of ex-offenders and to give copies of these policies to all applicants for positions that would require disclosure. All application forms for such positions should contain statements making it clear that disclosures will be requested in the event of successful applications and that criminal records will not necessarily prevent applicants from obtaining positions.

- Emma Burrows is a partner and head of the employment group at Trowers & Hamlins solicitors 

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