Understanding a “Failed” DBS check

21st Jun 2024

Uncover why DBS checks fail and what it means for you.

failed DBS check

 DBS checks are a vital part of the recruitment process, especially in roles working with children and vulnerable groups. However, the concept of “failing” a DBS check can be confusing. This blog aims to clarify what it means to fail a DBS check, what information is revealed, and the implications for individuals and employers.


What is a DBS check?

 A DBS check is a background check carried out by the Disclosure and Barring Service. It provides information about an individual’s criminal history, therefore helping employers make safer recruitment decisions. There are three levels of DBS checks: Basic, Standard, and Enhanced, with Enhanced checks being the most comprehensive.


What does it mean to “fail” a DBS check?

 Technically, there is no pass or fail in a DBS check. Instead, the check reveals certain information, and it is up to the employer to decide whether the information is relevant to the role and whether the individual is suitable for the position. A “failed” DBS check typically refers to when the disclosed information raises concerns about the individual’s suitability for the job.


Types of Information Disclosed

 The type of information disclosed depends on the level of DBS check:

Basic check: Reveals unspent convictions and conditional cautions

Standard check: Includes both spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands, and final warnings.

Enhanced check: Includes everything in a Standard check plus any additional information held by local police that is considered relevant to the role. This can also include a check of the DBS barred lists.


Reasons for concerns in a DBS check

Several types of information in a DBS check can raise concerns:

Criminal Convictions: Serious or repeated criminal convictions, especially those involving violence, sexual offenses, or dishonesty.

Cautions and Reprimands: Even minor offenses or cautions can be relevant, especially if they suggest a pattern of behaviour.

Police information: Relevant information from police records, even if no formal charges were made.

Barred Lists: Inclusion on the DBS barred lists, which legally prevents an individual from working with children or vulnerable adults.


Employer’s Role in Assessing DBS check results

When a DBS check reveals concerning information, the employer must assess the relevance and seriousness of the information in relation to the role. Key considerations include:

Nature of the offense: The type and seriousness of the offense.

Time Elapsed: How long ago the offense occurred.

Relevance to the role: Whether the offense is relevant to the duties and responsibilities of the position.

Rehabilitation Evidence: Evidence of rehabilitation and positive behaviour since the offense.


Potential outcomes of a concerning DBS check

 If a DBS check raises concerns, several outcomes are possible:

Job offers withdrawal: For new hires, the job offer may be withdrawn.

Employment Termination: For current employees, employment may be terminated.

Additional Measures: The individual may be reassigned to a role with different responsibilities or less contact with vulnerable groups.

Reassignment: The individual may be reassigned to a role with different responsibilities or less contact with vulnerable groups.


A “failed” DBS check does not automatically disqualify an individual from all employment opportunities. Each case is unique, and employers must carefully consider the context and relevance of the information disclosed. Understanding the nuances of DBS checks can help both individuals and employers navigate the process with greater clarity and fairness.

If you have any questions, please get in contact.