this autumn, employers in charge of recruiting staff to work in close contact
with children or other vulnerable groups will have an additional tool with
which to check out applicants. Will the Criminal Records Bureau help weed out
potential miscreants or does it encourage discriminatory recruitment policies?
sarah-jane north investigates
disclosure system operated by the newly formed Criminal Records Bureau will
enable employers to discover any skeletons in the cupboards of those it is
considering taking on. Plans have already been made to extend the CRB’s service
to provide basic disclosure for anyone who believes they need to prove they
have nothing to hide, regardless of their field of work.
Criminal Records Bureau, an executive agency of the Home Office, was borne out
of rising concerns that people with flawed employment records, even those
already banned from working with certain groups, were slipping through the net.
However, concerns have been voiced about the potential for employers to abuse
this new service and possibly discriminate against anyone with even the
slightest blemish on their CV.
many, the CRB’s key selling point will be its ability to tap into a variety of
information sources to discover a person’s criminal, or law-abiding, past. At
present, records of a person’s criminal convictions or their unsuitability for
posts are held on numerous databases. Through the CRB an employer gains access
not only to the Police National Computer (PNC), the centralised information point
for the police forces of England and Wales, but also to records held by local
CRB can also access records held by the Department of Health about people
considered unsuitable for work with children or with vulnerable adults and
similar records held by the Department for Education and Employment. The CRB
will also access records held in Scotland and Northern Ireland when
appropriate. According to the nature of the job or position involved,
information will be drawn from the PNC alone or every source.
CRB has come out of the whole issue of child protection and the recognition
that current arrangements for making checks into an individual’s past were too
limited," explains bureau chief executive Bernard Herdan. "The CRB is
about opening up access to information and joining together the various
employers’ organisations and civil liberties campaigners have raised concerns
about fraudulent access to sensitive information, as well as the potential for
abuse of disclosed information and discrimination against people with minor or
irrelevant criminal episodes in their past. The CRB claims these concerns have
helped shape the service it aims to provide.
individual applying for a job must make the application for a disclosure. Standard
and enhanced disclosures need to be endorsed by a person or organisation
registered in advance with the CRB. The CRB will start registering
organisations wishing to become registered bodies in May. Those registering
must sign up to the CRB’s code of practice, designed to ensure that all
disclosure information is handled confidentially and fairly. All disclosures
must be kept securely and be disposed of once a decision based on them has been
are concerned that employers may use this information to exclude ex-offenders
from a number of jobs," explains Meera Dhingra, spokeswoman for prisoner
resettlement charity Nacro. "This would work against other government
measures to get ex-offenders into work and may also increase crime, as unemployed
ex-offenders are far more likely to re-offend."
a means of shortlisting
CRB is keen to communicate a strong message to employers that the details
supplied by the bureau are intended to be only one part of a thorough
recruitment process which checks the suitability of successful candidates.
Employers should not rely on criminal records alone to gain a full picture of a
person’s fitness for the job.
acknowledge that there is a danger of employers using the information as a
means of shortlisting applicants," admits Herdan. "An uneducated
employer might misunderstand the intentions of this service. It should be used
only when the employer is ready to make a job offer."
requiring the job candidate to make the disclosure application, the CRB claims it
is making the process more transparent and ending a tradition of rooting around
for such information behind an applicant’s back. The requirement for a
candidate’s consent to the checks is also consistent with human rights and data
protection legislation concerning personal privacy. Herdan is urging employers
to make it clear that a disclosure will be required for a job and to offer
applicants the opportunity to declare any convictions .
CRB is working with the CIPD and ex-offenders organisation, the Apex Trust, to
produce guidance for employers on how to use the information, its
confidentiality and the relevancy of offences to different jobs. A caution, for
example, for the possession of cannabis while a student should not affect the
job prospects of a 50-year-old.
evidence and research have both revealed that as far as employers are concerned
a criminal record is one of the worst things to have on your CV. Most tend to
have blanket exclusion policies," says Dianah Worman, adviser on diversity
and equality for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
need to make sure that employers know about this useful recruitment tool, but
also how to use it responsibly. There is a legitimate concern that employers
will start to require a basic disclosure for all jobs. But what they need to
realise is that in most cases all they will get is a blank sheet of paper."
been among the lucky few who already had access to such information, local
government employers face less of a learning curve as to how to handle and
assess disclosures. However, it has one concern that will undoubtedly also be
in the minds of many organisations. The sector is suffering severe recruitment
problems in areas such as teaching and social services and needs no further
obstacles to encouraging job candidates. But Mike Walker, assistant director of
the Local Government Employers Organisation, says he is concerned that
ministers have made no additional provision to foot the bill for disclosures.
present the cost for providing a disclosure is to be borne by the job
applicant. However, it will be open to employers to reimburse the cost to the
applicant, much as they do train fares and other expenses to attend interviews.
The Government recently announced that Standard and Enhanced Disclosures will
be free of charge for volunteers. The charges for other applicants have yet to
be set but are expected to be in the region of
£10 per disclosure.
are worried that with recruitment problems in many areas a further barrier to
applicants will be unhelpful," says Walker.
early autumn 2001 two levels of disclosure, Standard and Enhanced, will be
available, dependent on the type of work involved. The CRB will offer advice
and as to which kind of disclosure is needed in individual cases. Each
disclosure will contain the date it was produced and will be accurate as of
this date. The original will be sent to the applicant and a copy to the
registered body that countersigned the application. Basic disclosures will be
available from next year.
disclosures (criminal records certificate)
Are for positions involving regular contact with those aged under 18, or with
May also be relevant for occupations involving positions of trust
Will contain details of all convictions on record including current and spent
convictions. They will also include details of any cautions, reprimands or
warnings held on the PNC
Will give information contained on Department of Health and Department for
Education and Employment lists of those unsuitable to work with children or
vulnerable adults in education or health care, if the job or position involves
regular contact with people in these areas
Will normally be provided within one week of the application being made.
disclosures (enhanced criminal records certificate)
Are for posts involving greater contact with children or vulnerable adults, for
example, regularly caring for, training, supervising or being in sole charge of
Also for candidates that are seeking gaming and lottery licences or judicial
Will contain the information included on a standard disclosure
May also contain information that is held locally by the police
Normally be provided within three weeks of the application being made.
disclosures (criminal convictions certificate)
Available from summer 2002
Contains information only on current convictions
Available to any individual, regardless of their field of employment
Sent only to the applicant.
Criminal Records Bureau