The DBS filtering process: what does it mean for employers?

As part of the DBS checking process, some cautions and convictions are no longer disclosed on DBS certificates. This is a process known as filtering. But what exactly is the DBS filtering process? And what are the implications for employers and applicants?

What does filtering mean?

Filtering was introduced in May 2013 in response to a high court case, which challenged the disclosure of all cautions and convictions on DBS certificates when in some cases they were minor offences from a significant period of time ago.

The court ruled that in some cases not all criminal record information should be disclosed, as it would disproportionate to do so.

Subsequently, the DBS introduced the filtering process, which means some cautions and convictions may not be disclosed on certificates as long as they meet the criteria.

The criteria vary depending on the nature of the offence, the age of the offender at the time, and whether they have any other offences. A full guide to determining when a caution or conviction will be filtered is available from Unlock, the award-winning charity for people with criminal records.

How does the DBS filtering process affect the disclosure certificate?

The DBS filtering process will only affect the certificate by potentially withholding some criminal record information, such as cautions and convictions.

The certificate won’t state that anything has been withheld – the information simply won’t appear on the certificate.

It’s important to note that this does not mean the criminal information will have been removed from the Police National Computer (PNC) – only that the DBS has filtered it in line with the legislation.

Implications for applicants

For applicants, the filtering process means that if their caution or conviction is eligible for filtering it will be classed as ‘protected’. This means they do not need to disclose it to employers, even if the employer is entitled to ask about the applicant’s spent convictions due to their job role.

Applicants who want to determine whether their caution or conviction would be filtered will need to consider the points outlined in the guidance provided by Unlock. However, the DBS has also published a list of offences which will never be filtered from a certificate, regardless of how long ago they occurred, due to the nature of the crimes.

Implications for employers

The DBS filtering process doesn’t impact employers greatly. The legislation which protects some cautions and convictions from being disclosed means employers are no longer legally entitled to ask about or receive details of those offences.  Consequently, they will no longer be disclosed on certificates.

However, employers do need to consider how they ask applicants about their criminal record in light of this legislation. Employers who are entitled to ask an applicant about their full criminal record must ensure they do not ask about any offences which are protected, meaning they would be filtered from the certificate.

The DBS has published recommended wording for employers to use in these circumstances.

The DBS filtering process: a summary

The DBS filtering process is designed to limit the disclosure of offences when it’s deemed unwarranted to do so.

This means minor offences, after a certain period of time has elapsed, will no longer be disclosed.

However, there are strict eligibility criteria in place to determine whether an offence will be filtered. Many offences will never be removed from certificates no matter how long ago the applicant was convicted. In addition, if they have been convicted of more than one offence, then all convictions will always be disclosed on the DBS certificate.

The impact on employers is not great, as the filtering process is done automatically by the DBS. However, employers do need to consider how they ask applicants about their criminal record, to ensure they don’t ask for information they aren’t legally entitled to know.

For more information about the DBS filtering process, or DBS checking in general, then please get in touch – we’d be happy to help!

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