DBS checks levels: Basic, Standard and Enhanced

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Jordie Black
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Staying compliant with conducting necessary criminal background checks on potential candidates is vital. Not only can it help protect you and your business, but many businesses within registered industries are required to undertake certain checks.

As part of a businesses' criminal record check, a company may wish to carry out a DBS check. The DBS (disclosure & barring service) check is a screening process that involves searching for any criminal convictions or cautions that an individual may have.

Employers will often use DBS checks as part of their recruitment process, especially for positions that involve working with vulnerable people or handling cash.

There are three levels of DBS check: basic, standard and enhanced. Each level shows different information about an individual's criminal record. Depending on the level of check conducted, it also includes other information, such as whether or not the individual is on the sex offender register.

In this post,  we'll take a closer look at each level of DBS check, and explore the different factors that will influence which level is right for your business and each specific job role.

What is a DBS check

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check is a method to verify criminal records. This service was formerly known as the Criminal Records Bureaucheck (CRB), yet its function stays the same: providing access to relevant documents so that individuals are aware of any previous convictions an applicant has.

Industries such as childcare, schools, healthcare and financial services require this as a standard practice. This is because these organisations often work with vulnerable people or handle sensitive information, so it is crucial that they know an applicant has been screened for any previous criminal convictions.

There are four different levels of DBS checks available:

1. Basic DBS check
2. Standard DBS check
3. Enhanced DBS check
4. Enhanced with Barred List(s) DBS check
Each level shows different levels of information about an individual's criminal record.

DBS check levels

Different levels of DBS checks are available depending on the nature and level of risk associated with your business as well as the working environment and type of work the role will carry out. For example, if you provide services to children, the elderly or vulnerable, you may need to request a higher-level check.

These levels exist to ensure that information about a candidate is only accessible  to a limited number of people when it is necessary and proportionate to do so.

The reason for this is due to the rehabilitation act.  The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act acknowledges that anyone with a previous conviction who has ‘done their time’  should not be discriminated against when applying for jobs on account of their past convictions that are now considered 'spent' or 'disregarded'.

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act gives them a chance to move on with their lives,  with past convictions no longer held against them in most job opportunities.

For this reason, jobs that require a basic DBS check will not  be able to see any information about a candidate's spent convictions.

Overall, the different levels of DBS checks provide an important safeguard against  discrimination and allow those with past convictions to move on with their lives. They also help protect vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly, and people who may be at risk of abuse or violence by ensuring that candidates have been properly vetted before they are placed in positions of trust.


A basic DBS check can be done by an individual or an employer. In accordance with the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, basic DBS Checks highlight any unspent convictions or conditional cautions for individuals who are over 16.

Employers will receive information on conviction date, court name, nature of offense, date of offense and sentence imposed. Such disclosure enables employers to determine whether an applicant is suitable for the job and helps to maintain workplace safety standards.

A basic DBS check may be required to get a visa or personal alcohol license. Individual Basic CRB Checks may also come in handy if you wish to do voluntary work.

Key information:
- Unspent convictions
- Conditional cautions


A standard Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check is a more thorough criminal background check than the basic one. Unlike the basic check, someone cannot apply for a standard DBS check on their own; it must be requested by an employer or organisation for roles that mandate it.

Key information:
- Cautions
- Convictions
- Reprimands and warnings (now replaced by youth cautions)
- Previously stepped-down cautions or convictions

Like with the basic checks, for each recorded offence, the report discloses the conviction or caution date, name of the court, nature of the offence, date of the offence, and the details of the sentence imposed.


An enhanced DBS check is the most detailed and in-depth criminal record and barring check that can be carried out in the United Kingdom.

Only employers and organisations can apply for an enhanced disclosure in circumstances where the role necessitates enhanced checks, such as roles that involve working with vulnerable adults or children.

Key information:
- Cautions
- Convictions
- Reprimands and warnings (now replaced by youth cautions)
- Previously stepped-down cautions or convictions
- Relevant police intelligence

Enhanced with barred list

The enhanced with barred list check shows the same information as the enhanced check but also includes information as to whether the candidate is on either the child or adult barred list.

To ensure safety in the recruitment process and protect those they may be working with, organisations use DBS barred lists compiled by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). These records are divided into two main categories; one for individuals prohibited from interacting with children, and another for people who have been restricted from working with vulnerable adults.

When deciding what level of DBS check you can request, it is important to consider the following:

Whether your business provides services for  children, the elderly or vulnerable people
What the job  role involves
How often is the function performed
The type of working environment.g., eg office

Top tip: If for any reason, you're unsure about what checks you're eligible to conduct on which candidates, the gov.uk website  has a number of useful resources that can help you out.

The DBS  eligibility tool  involves answering a few questions to determine what level  of Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check your candidate is eligible for.

After doing so, the tool responds with a description of what checks are to be considered for that particular role.  As it's illegal to conduct  checks that are beyond eligibility requirements, this tool is a very helpful guide to ensure compliance.

Categories of eligibility for standard and enhanced checks

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975 outlines the type of roles which may qualify for either a standard or an enhanced DBS check. These jobs can be divided into five main groups:
Roles which are considered a “profession” for example:  medical practitioners, barristers, accountants, vets and opticians
Roles within Law and Order: For example, anyone whose employment responsibility is to uphold the law, or is involved in someway with the criminal justice system such as judges, prison officers, police constables, traffic wardens)
Roles within a regulated industries: Regulated industries such as firearms dealers, insurance company directors, or taxi drivers are eligible for enhanced or standard DBS checks
Health and social care: Anyone who provides care or services to children or whose work involves providing services to vulnerable people e.g. care home assistance, social worker.
National security: Protection of the state: Those whose work could endanger the nation’s safety (e.g. air traffic controllers and certain employees of the Crown).

DBS checks for registered bodies

For the protection of employers and employees, every Registered Body (RB) is duty-bound to stay up to date with - and adhere strictly to - DBS Conditions of Registration. This ensures that each DBS check requested is compliant with government regulations and that the level of check requested is appropriate for the job role.

Submitting an ineligible DBS application is a serious legal offence. By signing the declaration on the form, Registered Bodies confirm that it meets all regulatory requirements - this holds even when using Umbrella Bodies to submit applications!

Final thoughts

DBS checks are  a vital tool for organisations that are looking to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their employees, customers, and other vulnerable individuals. With so many different categories and levels of eligibility, it is important to carefully consider what level of check is appropriate for each role.  

For guidance around  DBS, check out the gov.uk website for more information on DBS checks and eligibility, or speak with one of our  experts for more tailored advice.​

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