Recruitment freeze threat to firms that abuse CRB checks

Employers that abuse the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) disclosure service could be banned from carrying out any checks on job applicants when new regulations come into force in April this year.

The move would be disastrous for frequent users of the disclosure service, such as NHS trusts, local authorities and the voluntary sector. It raises the potential of recruitment freezes or the illegal employment of workers who have not been CRB checked.

Under the Police Act 1997 (Criminal Records) (Registration) Regulations 2005, CRB investigation teams will have the power to ‘terminate’ the registration of organisations that regularly abuse its disclosure service.

Last week, Personnel Today revealed that employers in the NHS are breaking the law by making illegal background checks on all new staff, not just those who have access to patients. Research by Personnel Today’s sister title IRS Employment Review last year found that about 10% of all CRB disclosures are for posts not eligible for checks.

Mark Favager, head of communications at the CRB, said the bureau was worried about organisations carrying out illegal checks and would not be afraid to take action against them. “The CRB will carry out more frequent inspections to make sure [illegal checks] don’t happen in the future,” he said.

Andrew Foster, director of workforce at the Department of Health, said it would be “unimaginable” that NHS organisations could be deregistered by the CRB because of the continual need to recruit new staff for the health service.

But Mervyn Barrett, communications manager at Nacro, the charity for ex-offenders, questioned whether the CRB would carry out its threat. A fine would be more appropriate for organisations found breaking the law, he said.

The new regulations will also mean employers being held to account for any mistakes on disclosure applications, and stricter rules on adhering to the CRB’s code of practice.

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