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What Is DBS Filtering? The Process Explained

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If you’ve applied for DBS checks before, or had one requested on your behalf, you may have heard of the DBS filtering process. But what is DBS filtering, and how does affect employers and applicants?

Read on to find out more about the process behind DBS filtering.


What does DBS filtering mean?

The DBS filtering process was introduced in 2013 in response to a high court case that challenged the disclosure of all spent convictions, even when they are considered a minor offence and happened a significant period of time ago.

The court ruled that disclosure of such convictions and cautions was disproportionate. As a result, the DBS filtering process was created.

The DBS filtering rules classes certain convictions and cautions as protected, so long as they meet the criteria, meaning an applicant is not obligated to disclose them, even for the highest level of DBS check.

Which offences are filtered from a DBS?

In order for a caution or conviction to be filtered, it has to meet certain criteria. This ensures that only those convictions/cautions considered a minor offence and where a long period has elapsed since the offence, will be filtered.

In order for a caution or conviction to be filtered, the criteria it must meet include:

  • It cannot be an offence on the list agreed by Parliament
  • The conviction must not have resulted in a custodial sentence, regardless of whether it was served
  • The individual must not have received more than one conviction offence
  • The length of time elapsed since the offence took place has to be a number of years, which will vary dependent on whether the individual was under or over 18 at the time of the offence.

Filtering is an automatic process that is done as part of the DBS vetting procedure. This means that an applicant does not need normally apply to have a caution/conviction filtered; it should happen automatically if the offence meets the above criteria.

What are the implications of filtering?

So, bearing in mind that filtering is an automatic process, what are the implications of the DBS filtering process for employers and applicants?

One of the main implications for employers is that they must ensure when they are asking their applicants about their conviction history, they are asking the appropriate question.

Only employers who have a legal basis for asking an ‘exempted question’ should be asking an applicant about their spent convictions. Employers who can ask this question should ensure that they are phrasing it appropriately as guided by the DBS, to ensure they are not asking an applicant to disclose anything that is ‘protected’ or filtered. The DBS guidance can be found here.

What is DBS filtering? A Summary

As we have seen, although filtering is an automatic process, it is important for employers to be aware of the implications so as to ensure the right questions are being asked. Equally, applicants need to understand what they do and don’t need to disclose.

So, now you know what DBS filtering is, what are the key points to remember?

  • Filtering is an automatic process, applicants should contact the DBS directly if they have any questions about why something has/hasn’t been filtered.
  • Nothing serious will be ever filtered, and a conviction/caution has to meet strict criteria before it will be filtered.
  • Employers who are eligible to ask ‘exempted question’ should make sure it is worded in line with guidance.

Be sure to get in touch with us if you have any further questions. You can apply for a number of DBS Checks through our simple online platform – most checks are completed within 48 hours. Get started now.


Our blogs are advisory in nature and reflect uCheck Limited’s current thinking about best and common practice in the subjects discussed.

The information contained in our blogs have been provided for information purposes only. This information does not constitute legal, professional, or commercial advice. Whilst every care has been taken to ensure that the content is up to date, useful and accurate, uCheck gives no guarantees, undertakings, or warranties in this regard, or, for any loss or damage caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with reliance on the use of such information.

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