Standard and Enhanced DBS checks: Which does your organisation need?

23rd Feb 2024

In this guide, we’ll explore the differences between standard and enhanced DBS checks, helping you determine which level of screening is best suited to meet your organisation’s needs. Let’s dive in!

Standard vs Enhanced DBS checks

In many organisations, especially those working with vulnerable populations or in sensitive environments, ensuring the safety and security of employees and clients is paramount. One crucial aspect of this is conducting appropriate background checks on staff members. In the UK, Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks are commonly used for this purpose. However, there are different levels of DBS checks available, including Standard and Enhanced checks, each serving distinct purposes. Understanding the difference between these checks is essential for organisations to make informed decisions about which type of check is appropriate for their needs.


Standard DBS checks

Standard DBS checks provide a fundamental overview of an individual’s criminal record, focusing primarily on unspent convictions and conditional cautions. These checks are typically suitable for roles that do not involve regular contact with vulnerable individuals or sensitive information. For example, positions in retail, administration, or certain industries where employees have minimal interaction with vulnerable groups may require Standard checks.


When to choose Standard DBS checks

  1. Low-risk roles: Standard checks are suitable for positions where employees have minimal interaction with vulnerable populations. This may include roles in retail, administration, hospitality, or similar sectors where the risk of harm to vulnerable individuals is low.
  2. Basic Criminal History Review: If your organisation requires a cursory review of an individual’s criminal background to ensure compliance with regulations or internal policies, a Standard DBS check may suffice.


Enhanced DBS checks

Enhanced DBS checks offer a more comprehensive examination of an individual’s background, including both spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands, and warnings. Additionally, Enhanced checks may include relevant information obtained from local police forces or government departments. These checks are essential for roles that involve working with vulnerable populations, such as children or adults at risk. Professionals in fields like education, healthcare, social work, and roles within care homes or schools typically require Enhanced DBS checks due to the nature of their work and the potential risks involved.


When to choose an Enhanced DBS check

  1. Roles involving vulnerable populations: Enhanced checks are essential for positions that involve regular contact with vulnerable individuals, such as children or adults at risk. This includes roles in education, healthcare, social services, care homes, and similar environments where the safety and well-being of vulnerable individuals is crucial.
  2. Legal Mandates: Certain professions and sectors are legally obligated to conduct Enhanced DBS checks for employees, as stipulated by legislation such as the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006. Failing to comply with these requirements can result in legal repercussions for organisations.


The Key Differences

  1. Scope of Information: The primary distinction between Standard and Enhanced DBS checks lies in the depth of information provided. While Standard checks offer a basic overview of an individual’s criminal record, Enhanced DBS checks provide a more thorough examination, including additional relevant information held by local authorities.
  2. Suitability for Roles: Standard checks are typically sufficient for low-risk roles where employees have minimal contact with vulnerable individuals. In contrast, Enhanced checks are essential for positions involving regular interaction with vulnerable populations, ensuring their safety and well-being.


Choosing between Standard and Enhanced checks

  1. Risk Assessment: Conduct a thorough risk assessment to determine the level of risk associated with the role and the potential impact on vulnerable populations. This will help you gauge whether a Standard or Enhanced DBS check is more appropriate.
  2. Legal Requirements: Familiarise yourself with any legal mandates or industry regulations that dictate the type of DBS check required for specific roles within your organisation. Ensure compliance with these requirements to avoid consequences.
  3. Duty of Care: Prioritise the safety and well-being of vulnerable individuals by erring on the side of caution when selecting the type of DBS check. Opt for Enhanced checks where there is any doubt or ambiguity regarding the level of risk involved.


Choosing between Standard and Enhanced DBS checks requires careful consideration of various factors, including the nature of the role, the level of risk, and legal requirements. While Standard checks suffice for low-risk positions with minimal interaction with vulnerable populations. By understanding the distinctions between these checks and their respective purposes, organisations can fulfil their duty of care and maintain a safe environment for all stakeholders involved.


Follow the link below to determine which DBS check your role may require: