The Importance of Background Checks for Employers in the UK


As an expert in pre-employment screening and background checks, I have seen firsthand the impact that these processes can have on a company's hiring decisions. In today's competitive job market, it is crucial for employers in the UK to have a consistent and thorough background check process in place to ensure they are making informed hiring decisions. In this article, I will discuss the importance of background checks for employers in the UK, the different types of checks available, and the steps involved in conducting a comprehensive background check.

The Need for Background Checks

In recent years, there has been a growing concern among UK employers about the potential risks associated with hiring individuals without conducting proper background checks. According to a survey by Compygate, a leading provider of pre-employment screening services, 1 in 5 UK employers have experienced unexpected information about potential hires during the screening process. This unexpected information can range from poor credit history to false work history to failed drug testing.

Without conducting a thorough background check, employers may unknowingly hire individuals who are not qualified for the job or who pose potential risks to their company. In addition, there are legal implications for not conducting proper background checks. The UK Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, has emphasized the importance of complying with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) when conducting background checks. Failure to do so can result in hefty fines and damage to a company's reputation.

The Different Types of Background Checks

There are several types of background checks that employers can conduct on potential hires. These include:
  • Basic Background Check: This includes a check of the individual's identity, work history, skills, and education.
  • Criminal Record Check: This involves checking an individual's criminal record through the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) or the Police National Computer (PNC).
  • BPSS Check: This is a government-mandated check for individuals working in the security industry.
  • Identity Check: This verifies an individual's identity through documents such as a passport or driver's license.
  • Right to Work Check: This ensures that an individual has the legal right to work in the UK.
  • Education Verification: This confirms an individual's academic history and performance.
  • Credit History Check: This checks an individual's financial history and credit score.
The type of background check required will depend on the nature of the job and any specific industry regulations.

For example, healthcare and finance industries may require more extensive checks due to the sensitive nature of their work.

The Steps Involved in Conducting a Background Check

The process of conducting a background check can be broken down into five main steps:

Step 1: Obtain Consent

In order to conduct a background check, employers must first obtain consent from the potential hire. This can be done through a signed consent form or by including a consent clause in the job application.

Step 2: Gather Information

The next step is to gather all necessary information from the potential hire, such as their full name, date of birth, and previous addresses. This information will be used to conduct the background check.

Step 3: Conduct the Check

Once all necessary information has been gathered, the background check can be conducted. This may involve contacting previous employers, verifying education and professional licenses, and checking for any criminal convictions or adverse information.

Step 4: Review the Results

After the background check has been completed, the results should be carefully reviewed.

If any adverse information is found, the potential hire should be given a chance to dispute the results or provide mitigating factors that may explain the information.

Step 5: Make an Informed Decision

Based on the results of the background check and any additional information provided by the potential hire, employers can make an informed decision about whether or not to hire the individual. It is important to consider all factors and make a fair and consistent decision.

The Benefits of Background Checks

Conducting thorough background checks can bring several benefits to employers in the UK:
  • Reduced Risk: By conducting background checks, employers can reduce the risk of hiring individuals who may pose a threat to their company or other employees.
  • Compliance: Background checks help employers comply with legal requirements and regulations, such as GDPR and industry-specific regulations.
  • Improved Hiring Decisions: By having all relevant information about a potential hire, employers can make more informed decisions and hire individuals who are qualified for the job.

The Future of Background Checks in the UK

The UK government has recognized the importance of background checks for employers and has taken steps to improve the process. In 2018, the government introduced improved DBS checks to make the process more efficient and reduce the time it takes to obtain a DBS certificate. In addition, there have been discussions about implementing a "name-blind" recruitment process to eliminate any potential bias during the hiring process. This would involve removing an individual's name from their application to prevent any discrimination based on their name.


In today's competitive job market, it is crucial for employers in the UK to conduct thorough background checks on potential hires.

This not only helps reduce risk and ensure compliance with regulations but also leads to better hiring decisions. By following a consistent and thorough background check process, employers can make informed decisions and create a safer and more secure workplace.

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