What does a DBS check show? The definitive guide

What does a DBS check show?

It’s a question we’re often asked at uCheck – so we’ve come up with this handy guide to clear up the confusion.

What does a DBS check show? Busting the myths

One of the most common misconceptions about DBS checks is that the result of a check is either a pass or fail. However, this isn’t the case.

A DBS check will reveal information about your criminal record. If you don’t have a criminal record, the certificate will say so. If you do, the details will show on your certificate (but more about that later).

Having criminal record information on your DBS certificate doesn’t mean you’ve ‘failed’. Employers would have to take the information into account when making a recruitment decision, but depending on the nature and severity of the offence, it wouldn’t necessarily prevent you from getting a job.

What does a DBS check show? The different levels

There are different levels of DBS check, and the level of check you have determines what information will be revealed.

Here’s a rundown of the different levels and the information they reveal:

Basic DBS check: Contains details of any unspent convictions or conditional cautions the applicant has.

Standard DBS check: Contains details of any spent or unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands or warnings the applicant has, as long as they’re not protected (we’ll explain more about this later).

Enhanced DBS check: Contains the same information as a standard check, as well as any relevant information held by the applicant’s local police force.

Enhanced DBS check with a check of the barred list/s: Contains the same information as an enhanced check, and shows whether the applicant has been barred from working with children and/or vulnerable adults.

What is a ‘spent’ conviction?

Convictions become ‘spent’ after a certain amount of time has elapsed. The length of time will depend on the nature and severity of the offence. Until this period of time has elapsed, the conviction is ‘unspent’.

For a more detailed explanation of the differences between spent and unspent convictions, check out Unlock’s guidance.

The definition of a spent conviction is laid out in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. However, Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own versions of this legislation, including differing definitions of ‘spent’, so results may vary depending on which vetting body carries out your check.

What does a DBS check show? The filtering process

In May 2013, the government introduced a filtering system which means that some convictions and cautions no longer appear on DBS certificates.

These protected convictions and cautions are removed from DBS disclosures to prevent employers from discriminating unfairly based on old or irrelevant offences.

Again, whether a conviction or caution is eligible for filtering will depend on its nature and severity, and the length of time since it happened.

Certain types of conviction will never be filtered from a DBS disclosure. These include sexual, violent and safeguarding offences.

For more information about the DBS filtering process, check out the government’s guidance.

What does a DBS check show? A summary

The information revealed by your DBS check will depend on the level of check you’ve applied for, as well as the nature, severity and age of any convictions or cautions you have.

If you’d like to know more about how criminal record information is revealed on DBS certificates, see Unlock’s Information Hub, or for more general information on DBS checks, see the DBS guidelines.

Our blogs are advisory in nature and reflect M G Care Executive Limited trading as uCheck'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 is only valid on the day of publication and 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, M G Care Executive Limited trading as 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.