Pre-employment checks

During the recruitment process, many employers choose to or have to, due to the specific industry requirements, conduct employment verification checks or vetting of candidates.

Verification covers the process of checking that details supplied by applicants (e.g. qualifications) are accurate and complete. This also generally includes the taking up of references provided by the applicant and the carrying out of DBS Checks where required.

Vetting covers the employer actively making its own enquiries either on their own or through third parties about an applicant’s background and circumstances.  It goes beyond the verification of details and as such is considered intrusive and should be confined to areas of special risk; to obtain specific information, rather than for general intelligence-gathering; and conducted at a late stage in the recruitment process.

The process that an employer adopts to carry out these checks is covered by a range of legislation – The Data Protection Act 1998; The Equality Act 2010; The Human Rights Act (1998) – Article 8; Immigration Asylum and Nationality Act (2006); and Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (1974) and the Rehabilitation of Offenders (Northern Ireland) Order (1974).  Therefore it is critical that any process adopted considers the requirements of each piece of legislation.

What pre-employment checks can/should be conducted?

All employers irrespective of their industry should conduct some form of pre-employment checks on their applicants/potential employees, for example, previous employer references; right to work in the UK; and verification of qualifications.

In addition to the above, due to the nature of the role that a potential employee may be carrying out, an employer may or must carry out the following:

  • A criminal record check through the Disclosure Barring Service (DBS)
  • A health check – these can only be performed prior to job offer if it’s a legal requirement, e.g. eye tests for commercial vehicle drivers or if the job requires it e.g. roles which require manual handling
  • Identity check
  • Financial check

These can be carried out by the employer or they may choose to outsource it to a specialised agency.

Who should be subject to pre-employment checks?

All employees should be subject to the basic suite of pre-employment checks – previous employer references and right to work in the UK.  This ensures that the organisation will avoid any potential discrimination claims.

However, comprehensive verification or vetting processes covering detailed checks on all employees/candidates should be avoided.  Instead, employers should use only those checks that can be justified due to a legal requirement or because of the risk a particular role places on the business.  The employer should consider the extent and nature of information that is sought, against their rationale for conducting the checks and the risks they have identified.  Checks should focus on acquiring information that will have a significant bearing on the employment decision.

When should pre-employment checks take place?

Apart from the Right to Work in the UK check, pre-employment checks should happen at the end of the recruitment process during the final stages or at the job offer stage.

How do I conduct pre-employment checks?

Employers should explain to applicants as early as is reasonably practicable in the recruitment process the nature of the verification process and the methods used to carry it out.  Wherever practicable the employer should obtain relevant information directly from the applicant and then verify it rather than undertake pre-employment vetting.  This could be done on an application form or something separate designed solely for the purpose.  The form should highlight:

  • the fact that pre-employment screening will take place and that the applicant must provide their consent for checks to be undertaken i.e. the form should be signed;
  • that lies or omissions are grounds to terminate the hiring process or employment no matter when they are discovered. This is important legally but it can also have significant deterrent value; and
  • that if checks are done post the job offer being made, that the job offer is conditional on the satisfactory outcome of the checks.

If an employer chooses to use an outsourced checking company, then they are likely to provide the form.

It is also important that the form makes it clear the extent to which the employer will release or share the information about the applicant both internally and externally.

Some checks such as the Right to Work in the UK and criminal records checks have prescribed processes an employer must follow.  However, for other checks which the employer is conducting themselves, the information to verify the candidate’s details should only be sought from reliable sources where it is likely that relevant information will be revealed.

Making employment decisions based on pre-employment checks

In the majority of cases, pre-employment checks will come back with no adverse information and employers can proceed to employ the candidate.  However, what happens if this is not the case?

Firstly, the applicant should have an opportunity to make representations and explain any discrepancies.  Then senior management should consider the details on a case by case basis, taking into account the full range of information available.  Consideration should be given to the role that the applicant will be undertaking, their integrity and any mitigating circumstances.

It simply might not be possible to recruit the applicant as to do so would be illegal for example in the case of an adverse right to work in the UK check.  Alternatively, it might be possible to continue or postpone the hiring until additional checks are completed.

There are some special considerations with particular checks, for example, criminal convictions and health records where decisions not to proceed with the candidate can be considered discriminatory and so care and additional advice in these areas needs to be taken.

In all instances, the employer should record their decision for granting or refusing employment.  This is important for auditing purposes and responding to possible challenges by the applicant or employee in future.

For assistance with pre-employment checks including verification and vetting contact Anita Wynne at Beststart HR on or Tel: 01438 747 747.