When applying for a new job, voluntary post, or student internship, there are usually a number of processes to follow, all of which have to be carried out correctly. Against this background, applicants want to know “how long does a DBS check take?” – especially those who haven’t required one before. Of course, these checks are indeed extremely important; however, the process is quite simple, and one is carried out thousands of times a day by the Disclosure and Barring Service. People usually find that, after successfully acquiring their first check, their confidence in the system is high, and future checks are that much easier to request and receive.
Checks and Renewals
As DBS checks refer to a person’s criminal record, this can often lead to confusion over expiry dates; people understandably wonder, if criminal convictions can become spent after a certain period of time, does this apply to a DBS check? In fact, the answer to this is “no”. Unlike some criminal convictions, cautions, reprimands, and warnings, DBS checks do not expire. Having had a check carried out, the individual (and sometimes employer) receives a DBS certificate; this remains valid until such time as another DBS check is carried out.
For this reason, some employers have DBS checks carried out periodically on the same employee; perhaps every six months or once a year. From their point of view, this ensures that their staff are “cleared” to work in their positions regularly; it is possible, after all, that an individual may pick up a non-custodial sentence, fine, or warning at any time during their employment. For employers in high-risk environments such as caring for children or vulnerable adults, this can be accepted practice. Indeed, regular DBS updates may be stipulated by an organization’s regulatory body.
In terms of the process, every DBS check is carried out the same way; whether it’s a first-time check or a renewal, checks take the same length of time. What can vary is the type of check itself. If renewals are required by employers for workers who are at the same level as for previous checks, the same check level will be necessary. This can change depending on the work environment, if not the actual job. An administrator working in a health setting may be moved to (or apply for) a similar job that caters to children or vulnerable adults; in this case, the check level could well heighten from a Standard to an Enhanced DBS check.
In the UK’s national health service (NHS), it is standard practice for departments to request DBS renewals on their staff every three years. As standard and enhanced checks have to be requested by an employer, the staff member involved will not have to take any action; although they will receive a copy of the eventual disclosure. Basic level DBS checks have to be requested by the individual, in which case the employer would need to ask their staff member to request a renewal, and then show this to their manager.
As we’ve seen, renewing or requesting a background check for the first time is the same process as far as the DBS is concerned. With the onset of online PDFs, this process can be much shorter than waiting for a paper copy. From receiving an electronic request, through National Police Computer (NPC) check, to the certificate issue should take no more than five working days. Of course, if paper copies are required, the postal system needs to be factored into this timescale; it is more and more common, however, for employers to trust online documents.
Delays can occur when applicants (be they individuals or employers) get details wrong. For an organization the size of the NHS, this is not unknown. Another source of delay is where there is a missing address for a certain period, or a past conviction has not been declared. Such delays will mean re-submitting a DBS check request and starting from scratch, as there is no way to shorten the process.
There are commercial options available that enable individuals to sign up for portable DBS certificates. For an annual subscription, period renewals or those required by changes in job can be carried out automatically, saving time for both employee and employer alike. As each DBS check already comes with a fee, this may be a sensible option for those in long-term employment in an important sector like health provision.