Background checks/Employee Screening in the UK

Employee’s in the UK have excellent standards of living. Their compensation packages include longer paid holidays, excellent working conditions, sufficiently good salary range, and free healthcare. Thus, employers would be investing heavily on the talent they recruit. 

Conducting a background check for employees in the UK helps employers validate the investments they make for talent. It is essential to deeply understand how employment background searches work in the UK before applying.

A background check in the UK will include a detailed investigation of the prospective candidate’s social and professional background with specific prerequisites determined by the company or employer. This article covers the nuances of a verifying a candidate's background before hiring in the UK.

What Is Employment Background Verification?

A background check in the UK entails a detailed verification of a prospective candidate’s past employment records, education history, criminal history (if any), credit and financial reports, license records with motor vehicle history, among other vital aspects of their previous and present background.

Laws around pre-employment screening in the UK involve the right to work check, criminal records check, employment history verification, and professional references. If the candidate is a fresher, the education history might also be verified. In total, an employer has access to ten basic rights to background checks (not all of which are free, e.g., the DBS check that checks past criminal convictions).

Below are details on what types of background checks are entailed during a job offer in the UK for an employee, the process, and what benefits the employee has if the data is misused against them.

Benefits of Background Checks in the UK

Although it does seem like a complete exposure of a candidate’s personal and professional background to concerned authorities, a pre-employment background check in the UK has essentially important features benefitting the employer.

To begin with, there are strict rules in the personal data safety and necessary steps for a data breach (if any occurs) that provide a redressal mechanism for the employee to lodge any complaints.

Not all background checks can be conducted free of cost in the UK. Some need money and a disclosure form so the employee can choose to reveal the data to the employer/organization. 

Not all the ten basic background checks will be needed for every prospective employee. For example, a credit history report shall be of paramount importance if one applies to IT fields or any financial management positions. A criminal background check or educational history shall be more prioritized for those applying to healthcare, education, or related industries.

Are Background Checks Legal in the UK?

Yes, employment background checks in the UK are legal. Pre-employment screening and choosing is key part of the hiring process. It secures a safer workplace environment and eliminates potential threats that an unchecked employee might pose. 

Things to Know When Performing a Background Check in the UK

Background checks in the UK are vast. However, here are some of the most common types of background checks a candidate might encounter: 

Employment History

Employment background checks in the UK entails a detailed investigation about the candidate’s identity verification and proof of work in the company, the dates of joining and the date of leaving, the performance graph of the candidate in their past job(s), and so on. There might be added investigation regarding the candidate’s temperament if there is no transparency or problems in the previous job profile.  

Education History

Education history is often verified when there is no previous employment record, or the candidate is a fresher. Employers may look into a candidate’s education history for specialized jobs in healthcare or education that requires people with specific degrees. It ensures they have obtained the right degree. 
The education background checks substantiate the dates of attendance, university/college transcripts, degrees, areas of study, and specific grades. 

Criminal Record

The police carry on a certain DBS standard check or enhanced check. In this background check, the police investigate a candidate’s background for criminal convictions, court cases, warnings, reprimands, etc., held by the Police National Computer (PNC). One can request a simple DBS check, including the address, national insurance number, passport, and motor vehicle records. 

Credit Report

This background check in the UK is free and usually runs on prospective applicants applying to Financial/Trade/Commerce related industries. An employee credit check is carried out to look into the candidate’s financial abilities to avoid mismanagement. Since the previous salary is usually not disclosed by law, a background check might help recruiters assess the candidate's financial responsibility. 

Social Life

An organization or employer might want to go through a candidate’s social media if they so wish. This is not a common practice but may be of use if the candidate is applying for an IT-related field. This ensures no data leakage occurs or is hampered by the candidate through any social media handles. However, taking their social life as a marker of their job qualifications is not legal.

Information Essential for a Background Check in the UK

As an employer, not complying with the rigid rules outlined in the background checks of the UK could cost dearly. 

Here’s what employers and employees should know about an employee background check in the UK:

  • ~Every hired employee should have legal permission to work in the UK, and this should be thoroughly checked during an employment background screening. Employers can be penalized up to 20,000 GBP for recruiting employees without valid work permits
  • ~An employer cannot simply collect extra information outside of what is needed in the disclosure forms or simply because that might be required in the future
  • ~There has to be consent between the employer and employee for the data collected for any pre-employment background search in the UK
  • ~The employee can request complete access to their personal data at any point
  • ~Lastly, the data should be stored securely and not manipulated or breached
  • ~Any third-party organization cannot ask for a Basic Disclosure, and Barring Service (DBS) check except for the recruiters or employer concerned

Process Involved in Background Checks

The time taken for background checks in the UK varies depending on the screening and type of inspections required. For example, the right-to-work check or the Driver and Vehicle License Agency (DVLA) checks can be processed instantly, but checks like the DBS may take longer. 

The average processing time to complete all vital checks in the UK for an employee is three to five days.

The process usually entails several backtracking into the candidate’s authenticity through their date of birth, address proof, etc. In case of no previous employment, the candidate’s educational qualifications may be scrutinized. This also ensures their resume matches their practical skills, especially for candidates in the healthcare, education, etc. 

Sometimes, employers might contact the candidate’s educational institutions/previous employers to seek added transparency.

Industries and Situations That Are Most Suitable for Background Checks in the UK

Background checks in UK are compulsory by law for a few industries. Some of the industries/positions that shall require you to provide extensive personal and professional information for background checks:

  1. Finance sector - The Financial Services Authority (FSA) requires an extensive background check of the prospective candidate to ensure the candidate’s financial responsibility concerning managerial positions, honesty, and competence.
  2. Restricted airlines - Prospective candidates applying to work as an airport staff, especially in the restricted zones, you shall require a thorough background search in the UK, where employees are needed to get an Airside Pass, without which they are not allowed inside.
  3. Security industry - Employers must conduct extensive background checks in the UK for candidates applying to the security and defense industry. Since they are responsible for protecting lives and property, background checks minimize potential fraud. 

Employers, however, shall need to run a background check on the candidates that comply with the BS7858 standard. Set by the British Standards Institution (BSI), it is a UK standard for vetting employees working in the security industry.

How Multiplier Helps With Background Checks?

An employment background check in the UK is essential for any job profile, especially in security fields. Moreover, having an authorized background check completed in the UK is necessary since it provides a safe space of redressal for a prospective employee in case of any discrimination or attack based on the information provided.

Multiplier, SaaS-based solution helps onboard and manage global employees. The digital platform provides end-to-end services, right from salary insights and contract drafting to payroll processing. Furthermore, experts at Multiplier ensure total compliance during onboarding, with their extensive knowledge of domestic and international labor laws. Contact Multiplier to grow and manage your global team without hassles.

With Multiplier, you have the option to trust the best in the industry. 

Talk to our experts to learn more.

#1 Global Employment Solution
Build a global brand
Local HR experts for global teams
Market entry in minutes
90% lesser expansion costs
Increase employee satisfaction
Zero employment risks
Save with no local entities
24x7 HR & Payroll support
Automated employee contracts
One-click payrolling
Pay employees in local currency

Enjoyed reading this?
Save it for future reference

Download PDF

Frequently Asked Questions

Which sector is most likely to conduct a background check on its employees?

Usually, industries that hire candidates with a lot of exposure to the public and highly restrictive sectors are required to perform background checks by law. Some industries that are most prone to conducting background checks on the candidates in the UK include Restricted Airlines, the Financial Services Authority (FSA), and the Security and Defense industries.

Do background checks really work?

Contrary to popular belief, background checks do work and are often quite rigorous in their approach to dealing with prospective candidates. It is an essential step in getting to know a human being’s social background.

Why is it legal to have access to a candidate’s social documents?

Background checks in the UK are legal. They are an eligibility requirement by law in most organizations. Most of the documents scrutinized during a background check are a candidate’s records, which mostly are available in the public domain: employment history, education history, etc. The information obtained is always with written consent, and the UK has rules to protect its candidates’ sensitive data from leakage.

Need Reliable Help In Obtaining A Work Visa?

Get Expert Help Now

World’s Preferred EOR/PEO Platform for a Global Workforce

Get Expert Help Now