Although not compulsory, it is advisable to check a potential
You can do this in writing or by telephone at any point during
the recruitment process. Some candidates will prefer you not to
check their references until they have been offered the job, and
you must have their permission before any referees are
Except for certain employers in the financial services sector,
employers aren't obliged to give references. The easiest way to
obtain references is in writing. You could ask:
when and for how long the candidate was employed
what their job title and main duties were
how many days of sick leave they took
whether they were subject to disciplinary action - and if so
whether they were reliable, honest and hardworking
if there are any reasons why they should not be employed
Extra detail can be revealed by telephoning the referee. It is
advisable to write to the referee first so they expect your call
and have time to prepare.
If you have any doubts about whether a reference is genuine, you
should ring back to check the referee's identity.
Are References Confidential?
Generally, employees do not have the right to ask their employer
to see a job reference that the employer has written about them.
However, they may be able to gain access to it from the person
the reference is sent to, so you should not assume a reference
will stay confidential.
Individuals may also be able to access notes made about them
during a telephone reference as well as any notes you make
during and after their interview.
As well as looking at references, you should also check the
applicant's qualifications, especially when the qualification is
essential to the position you want to fill. In some professions,
applicants must be in possession of specific qualifications
before they can practice.
You can check qualifications by asking to see the candidate's
certificates. Alternatively, you can check with the awarding
bodies or use one of the checking services - such as Experian.
You may wish to include health checks as part of your
recruitment process. A health questionnaire may ask about
individual and family history and lifestyle. They can highlight
potential problems requiring a follow up - eg by a medical
Questions about disability and health during the recruitment
Before offering a job to anyone, you should only ask about a
candidate's disability or health if you need to find out
they will be able to attend an interview or do some form of
you will need to make a reasonable adjustment to enable them
to attend an interview or do the test
they will be able to do something that is intrinsic for the
job in question
You can also ask about a candidate's health if:
you want to monitor the diversity of your applicants
you want to take positive action to enable you to recruit
more disabled workers
the job in question is one for which having a disability is
an occupational requirement
Asking a question about disability is not in itself
discriminatory. However, your conduct following the candidate's
response could lead an employment tribunal to conclude that you
have carried out a discriminatory act.
When to Carry Out Pre-Employment Health Checks
You should only complete pre-employment health checks:
once you have offered the job to a particular person
where any candidate - disabled or not - would be required to
undergo testing to decide if they are fit to carry out the
where testing is needed to meet any legal requirement - eg
eye tests for commercial vehicle drivers
when you are sure you need this information and have
policies in place to securely hold the information as
required by the Data Protection Act 1998, regardless of
whether it is in paper or electronic form
The level of assessment will depend on the nature of the job and
can range from simply checking the levels of absence in a
previous job to a full health assessment.
If you are making a job offer conditional upon the candidate's
fitness for the work, this should be stated clearly in the offer
You must ensure you are not carrying out discriminatory
practices in asking potential employees to pass a health check.
Health checks - if required - should be carried out on all
candidates to avoid unfairly discriminating against disabled
candidates. For further guidance, see our guide on how to
prevent discrimination and value diversity.
You may be required to pay a fee for a medical report on a
candidate. The candidate must give you their written consent
before you request a medical report.
Candidates have the right to see the report and can request that
it is amended or withheld from you. Even without the applicant
seeing the report, the doctor must keep it for 21 days before
sending it to the employer.
Applying for a Criminal Records Check
Certain positions will enable the employer to apply for a
criminal records check for the potential applicant from the
Criminal Records Bureau (CRB). This is usually required when
people are working regularly with children or vulnerable adults.
The Security Industry Authority also carries out a criminal
record check on anyone who applies for a security licence.
It is important to ensure that a position is eligible for a CRB
check before starting the process. Eligibility is governed by
the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (1974) (Exceptions) Order
1975. You should contact the CRB if you are unsure whether a
position is eligible for a check.
Criminal records checks should not be requested until a job
offer is made, but you should make it clear, in writing, that
the job offer is conditional upon a criminal records check.
There are two types of criminal records check - standard and
enhanced. The type of check you will need to make will depend on
the work that is to be undertaken.
A standard check lists any:
The enhanced check must be used for all applicants where the
work involves regular contact with vulnerable groups - such as
children, disabled people and elderly people. An enhanced
certificate has all the same information as a standard
certificate as well as any other relevant information from local
police forces. For more information see our guide: criminal
You must be registered with the CRB or use the services of an
'umbrella body' if you want to obtain CRB checks. A registration
fee of £300 is payable.
Once you have received your copy of the CRB certificate, you can
assess whether the candidate is suitable for the job. A CRB
check will reveal previous convictions. Generally, under the
terms of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (1974), someone
convicted of a criminal offence who does not receive any further
convictions during 'the rehabilitation period' becomes a
rehabilitated person. Their conviction is regarded as spent -
therefore after a certain period of time, you should treat the
person as if the conviction had not happened.
In most cases where a position is not eligible for a CRB check
However, a conviction resulting in a prison sentence of more
than 30 months can never be spent.
A person must disclose all convictions - including spent ones -
if the job offered falls into an exempted category according to
the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order
Whether the conviction is spent or unspent, you should carefully
weigh a number of factors, including:
how long ago the offence was committed
the candidate's age at the time
the relevance of the offence to the job offered
the penalty awarded
whether the offence was isolated or part of a pattern of
what is known about the person's behaviour before and since
People should not be unfairly discriminated against due to
past convictions. You should also give the candidate a
chance to explain if a check reveals adverse information
Ensuring Candidates are Eligible to Work in the UK
All employers in the UK have a responsibility to stop illegal
migrants working. You must therefore check the entitlement of
everyone you plan to employ to work in the UK. Failure to do so
may result in a civil penalty or criminal conviction.
Some people can work in the UK without restriction, including:
citizens of the UK, Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and
Commonwealth citizens with the right to live in the UK
most European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss nationals,
although nationals of some Eastern European EEA countries
will need authorisation or to register with the UK Border
Agency (UKBA) to work in the UK
family members of nationals from EEA countries and
Switzerland that are residing lawfully in the UK
dependants of migrants who have entered the UK under one of
the tiers of the points-based system
Even if you think that a potential employee has the right to
work in the UK, you should still make the necessary checks. You
should ask candidates to provide evidence of their right to work
in the UK by producing original copies of documents specified by