Explaining Filtering & DBS Checks

Since its introduction in 2012, the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) has offered three different types of DBS checks which employers have used to determine the suitability of potential candidates for any open roles. These three DBS checks are BasicStandard and Enhanced DBS checks.

Choosing the correct type of check depends on the details of the role and the industry it’s within. For example, if you’re working with children or vulnerable adults, a higher level of disclosure is needed than for most other positions. Whether you are an employer or a potential employee, if you’ve researched DBS checks, you’ve probably seen the term ‘filtering’. But what does this mean?

What Does Filtering Mean on a DBS Check?

Depending on the type of check that is chosen, employers get the opportunity to see any offences that an employee has on their criminal record, which helps to ensure that candidate’s suitability for the role. However, there are forms of cautions and convictions that may not be relevant to that position. Therefore, applicants need to be protected from any unfair negative bias that an irrelevant criminal record may have on their job application.

Filtering is a process that has been used with certain DBS check applications since its introduction on 29th May 2013, which is designed to remove this issue. It removes any protected cautions or convictions from a DBS check, safeguarding the applicant’s privacy and ensuring that their interview and review process is as fair as possible.

The certificate produced at the end of a DBS check won’t state that anything has been withheld. Instead, the information simply doesn’t appear on the certificate, meaning that employers only learn the information they need to know.

What Types of Offences are Subject to Filtering?

Any warnings or offences that are protected or took place a sufficient number of years ago won’t be included on the DBS certificate, which means they won’t impact a candidate’s chances of obtaining the role. For this filtering process to occur, it needs to meet the following criteria:

  • Type of sentence – A conviction will be filtered if it didn’t result in a custodial sentence (whether that was spent or unspent).
  • The number of offences – The individual undergoing the DBS check must not have received more than one conviction offence.
  • Date of the sentence – Several years need to have passed since the offence took place, which varies depending on the individual’s age at the time it occurred.

Neither party needs to be concerned about whether the filtering process has been completed correctly. If an applicant has a conviction or caution on their criminal record that meets the above criteria and is eligible to be filtered, that should happen automatically.

How Filtering Impacts Applicants and Employers

Implication for Applicants

If you’re applying for a job that requires a DBS check, it’s crucial to remember that some cautions and convictions could be eligible for filtering. If you have an eligible offence on your criminal record, it doesn’t need to be disclosed to employers, whether they query if you have any spent convictions on your criminal record or not. Review whether certain offences are suitable for filtering from your DBS check before providing relevant information to your employers.

Impact on Employers

It’s natural for any employer that requests a DBS check from a prospective candidate to want to learn everything about that applicant to ensure they’re making the best hiring decision. However, specific cautions and convictions are not legally allowed to be part of that decision-making process and are therefore filtered for the protection of the candidate. Employers cannot ask any applicants to disclose these filtered results. If they ever learn about a filtered conviction and use the information to influence their decision, they are acting unlawfully as per the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. Therefore, employers must check the rules regarding filtered DBS checks to ensure they’re asking the correct questions and not putting undue pressure on their applicants.

Situations where Filtering Doesn’t Apply

There are a few job roles for which filtering doesn’t occur during DBS checks, including police vetting and any position that requires a firearms license application. These exceptions exist in the interests of public health and safety.

There is also a list of cautions and convictions that will never be subject to filtering due to the nature of the offences. To learn more, you can read the complete list of unfiltered DBS offences here.

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