Checking job applicants, employees and volunteers

When an employer requires criminal record information, they must keep to rules about requesting criminal records and making recruitment decisions based on records disclosed. As AccessNI cannot search criminal records outside the UK, except for some EU countries, employers should take other steps to check job applicants from abroad.

Checks for employees and volunteers

All employers can ask an individual to apply for a basic check which will disclose an individual’s unspent convictions. Certain employers are legally required to get higher level checks for their employees and volunteers.  

Employers cannot, under Section 56 of the Data Protection Act, ask anyone to obtain a subject access disclosure for employment purposes.

Reusing disclosure certificates

AccessNI disclosure certificates are only accurate on the issue date. You should only consider reusing certificates in very limited circumstances.

A basic disclosure certificate is no more than a simple statement to an applicant that shows an unspent criminal record or lack of criminal record, at a particular point in time. Disclosures are designed to be used immediately. With an aged certificate, there is a risk that the applicant’s criminal record has changed.

You should be cautious about accepting aged checks or transferring disclosure certificates to later roles or jobs. Before you decide to accept a previously issued basic disclosure certificate, you should also consider whether:

  • your organisation has a legal obligation to get a fresh disclosure
  • the identity details on the certificate match those of the applicant
  • the disclosure certificate is genuine and has not been tampered with
  • the post requires an enhanced or standard certificate rather than a basic certificate

Standard or enhanced certificates should not be re-used because every application to see spent convictions or approved information should be counter-signed by a registered person on the basis of a specific role or position.

Security features of an AccessNI disclosure certificate

An AccessNI certificate contains a number of security features which can be used to verify whether it has been counterfeited or altered in any way.

The latest AccessNI certificates have the word 'DOCUCHECK' watermarked into the paper on which they are printed.

If you are unsure whether an AccessNI certificate is genuine or if you think that it may have been altered, you should contact AccessNI.

Filtered checks

Some convictions and cautions are removed from AccessNI standard and enhanced checks. This means they won't appear on a disclosure certificate. This is called filtering.  

Find out more about filtering and other information disclosed on certificates.

Errors in an application for an AccessNI check

Make sure you provide accurate, legible information to AccessNI. If there is an error on an application, AccessNI will reject the application and return it to the registered body.

If there are any discrepancies between the information submitted as part of the application and the identity documents supplied - and fraud is not suspected – the registered body should tell the applicant.

Do not amend the application without the applicant's knowledge and agreement, as it will invalidate the applicant’s declaration on the application.

If you believe an applicant has presented a false identity document, do not process the application. You should report the suspected identity fraud to Action Fraud.

Employing someone with a criminal or conflict-related conviction

If a job applicant’s criminal conviction is disclosed, an employer should consider its relevance to the job.

If the applicant is on a barred list they are breaking the law if they apply to work or volunteer with vulnerable groups in regulated activity.

There is guidance for employers about recruiting people with convictions which occurred during Northern Ireland’s troubles available on the Executive Office website.

Find out more about your obligations as an employer.

Checking overseas applicants

AccessNI cannot access criminal records held overseas except for a limited number of EU countries, this currently applies to an applicant whose nationality is German, Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanium, Spanish, French, Italian or Slovakia and is in regulated activity with children, but it is possible to submit an application while the applicant is overseas.

If you are recruiting people who are abroad, an AccessNI check might reveal overseas criminal records held on the Police National Computer. However, as AccessNI cannot normally access criminal records held overseas, an AccessNI check may not provide a complete picture of an individual's criminal record.

If you plan to employ someone from another country and you want to check if they have a criminal record in that country you can find information about getting this on the GOV.UK website.

Certificate of good conduct

An employer can ask a job applicant from overseas to provide references and a certificate of good conduct. This should be an original letter or certificate on letterhead from an embassy or High Commission. The standard of foreign police checks varies according to criminal record systems used.

The certificate should be a certified translation in English. AccessNI does not translate documents.

Checking an applicant's right to work in the UK

An employer is always responsible for ensuring their employees have valid work visas to work in the UK.

Portable checks

Employers in England and Wales accept portable disclosure certificates. If an English or Welsh person applies for a role in Northern Ireland using a DBS portable check, an employer can still ask them to get an AccessNI check.

Checking an applicant’s identity

An employer should verify each employee’s identity. This involves checking proof of their:

  • full name
  • date of birth
  • permanent address on a utility bill (gas, electric, landline telephone)
  • photographic ID on a current passport or driving licence

For guidance on checking identity for responsible bodies, you can download and keep the AccessNI ID validation form below.

For guidance for registered bodies on checking identity, including the ID validation form visit the page at the link below.

When checking a British passport, follow the guidance in Basic Passport Checks.

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