Digital criminal record checks roundup

Digital criminal record checks roundup

In our recent webinar “Digital criminal record checks”, we brought speakers from the DBS as well as our own Director and Chair of the Better Hiring Institute, Keith Rosser, to discuss the planned changes to DBS checks in England and Wales and the best way for employers to respond to these.

Reed Screening’s approach to digital identity

At Reed Screening, we’ve been advocates for digital identity for some time, and believe that post-COVID the UK needs a flexible, digital approach to hiring both to bounce back from the pandemic and to be ready for the new world of work that will follow it. We see huge benefits in convenience and security for employers and candidates in moving to digital hiring practices.

While the introduction of digital right to work checks is something we warmly welcome, we’ve also advocated for the introduction of digital DBS checks alongside this - it’s clear to us that if DBS didn’t follow the same path as the Home Office with right to work checks, that the advantages of digital hiring would be lost.

We’re in the process of appointing a provider to manage Reed Screening’s own digital identity verification service for DBS checks and will be offering this as part of our screening packages, you will also be able to purchase a standalone check for right to work.

What are the changes to DBS checks?

Mark Sugden, Head of Identity at DBS, explained the upcoming changes to digital identity in DBS checks in England and Wales.

He explained that there were three key steps to the process of establishing a person’s identity: seeing a government-issued document like a passport, driving license or birth certificate to prove an identity exists; seeing a utility bill or bank statement to prove that the identity is active and that of a real person; and seeing these documents together with the applicant to prove that the applicant is the same person as the documents say.

As a temporary measure during COVID, employers were permitted to carry out these checks on a video call. However, from 6th April, employers will have the option to carry out either in-person checks or the new digital checks via a certified provider – checking documents over video call for right to work checks will no longer be acceptable.

The new digital checks

Instead of seeing documents in person, digital identity checks will likely take the form of an app – a user will take a selfie, as well as a photograph of their passport’s photo page and a scan of the NFC chip embedded within their passport and submit these to the identity verification service for checking. Depending on the level of DBS checks being carried out, different levels of identity verification will be required and different documents and checks may be acceptable. As with digital right to work checks, manual in-person checks are still acceptable as an alternative for employers who can’t or don’t want to conduct digital identity verification.

For digital right to work checks, digital identity verification will need to be carried out through a certified provider, and like digital right to work checks, DBS are currently in the process of appointing certification bodies to audit these providers.

We’re expecting an announcement on certification bodies via the UKAS website in the coming weeks, after which digital identity providers will be able to apply for certification and begin offering digital identity verification services to employers.

Insights from our attendees

Our webinar was attended by over 150 organisations and we took the opportunity to gather their thoughts on the introduction of digital identity for DBS checks.

  • 71% believe that digital identity will speed up DBS checks. 21% were unsure, while only 8% disagreed,
  • 63% will be looking to implement digital identity for DBS checks. Only 3% have definitely decided not to, with the remaining 34% still not sure.
  • 75% agree that the digital innovation from the DBS has made recruitment easier. 24% believe it has made no difference while only 1% believe it’s made recruitment harder than before.

What does this mean for employers?

While the details of exactly who will be able to offer digital identity verification services are still being confirmed, it’s clear that there are great benefits to employers from moving to digital identity verification. Digital verification by a certified organisation is likely to be much more secure than having documents checked manually by a team member who’s unlikely to be trained in spotting fakes, reducing the compliance risk to organisations. Digital verification can also happen remotely without the need for an in-person meeting, offering far more flexibility for employers to offer remote working options to their employees.

Like any new technology, however, the benefits need to be weighed up by employers on an individual basis. Areas to consider include:

  • Cost: digital identity checks will need to be conducted through a certified provider and this will come at a cost to employers, who’ll need to weigh the expense against the time savings or carrying out manual checks, as well as the wider effect on time-to-hire and candidate experience.
  • Process: employers will need to decide exactly how and when to implement digital identity verification into their hiring processes to ensure a smooth, efficient process.
  • Fairness: since the digital identity verification scheme will only be open to applicants with passports, it’s important that employers ensure that their process treats candidates without passports, and who will therefore need manual checks, fairly. It’s vital that organisations have a strong understanding of the process to avoid creating a two-tier labour market.
  • Timescales: the 6th April deadline for digital right to work checks is very challenging – 68% of employers in our last webinar said that this would not give them enough time to implement a solution. Reed Screening has written a brief to the Home Office highlighting this issue and will continue to advocate on behalf of employers to ensure they’re not negatively affected by a cliff-edge deadline.

What happens next?

Many of the details for digital identity verification for DBS checks are still to be confirmed.  Reed Screening is hosting a number of events where you can have your say and feedback on areas that are working well, and others that need more development.

Below are a few of the upcoming events you can get involved with: 

22nd February - A Parliamentary employer roundtable hosted by Lord Holmes on digital identity for right to work. For this session, we need you as employers to come along and say what’s good but also what you feel needs to be developed. You can register your interest by emailing 

17th March – How UK government are transforming hiring through digital identity with Home Office and DCMS as speakers. 

7th April – Digital right to work: The UK’s new regime – with Home Office, DCMS and DBS as speakers.