Is it always necessary to have an enhanced DBS check if you’re working as a contractor in a school or care home?

Our helpline often receives calls from individuals who, as part of their work, are required to go into schools or care homes (for example plumbers and electricians). Many employers will insist that you have an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service check with a check of the barred list because of the type of establishment that you will be working in. But, are employers always entitled to do this level of check?

The DBS offer three levels of criminal record check:

  1. Standard
  2. Enhanced
  3. Enhanced with a check of the children’s barred list, the adults barred list or both

An employer is only entitled to do an enhanced check with a check of the barred list if an individual will be engaging in regulated activity.

The DBS have confirmed that in order to be in regulated activity for children, your role would need to meet the following criteria:

  • Take place in a specified establishment (e.g. a school)
  • The work must be carried out for the purpose of the school
  • The work must be unsupervised
  • The work must involve the opportunity to have contact with children (i.e. there must be children present on the premises at the time the work is carried out).

Therefore if you’re a plumber working in the boiler room of a school and supervised at all times by the school caretaker, then an employer would not be able to do an enhanced check with barring.

However, they may still be able to request an enhanced check without barring. This is because ‘infrequent’ work within a school can entitle eligibility as long as there is the opportunity for contact with children. So, if you’re a plumber who would be working unsupervised in different parts of the school and may come into contact with children, then an employer could ask you to have an enhanced check without barring.

If you’re working in an adult care home, an enhanced check without barring could be carried out providing you were working in the care home once a week or more, four or more times in a 30 day period or overnight and there would be the opportunity for you to come into contact with vulnerable adults.

The DBS have recently launched their eligibility tool which may help you to establish what type of check an employer can do for a job you’re applying for.

If you believe that an employer could be carrying out an ineligible check then you can challenge this through the DBS.

For more information

  1. For practical self-help information – More information is available on our criminal record checks for employment section
  2. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact theHelpline
  3. Employment Project – Find out more information about our Fair Access to Employment project
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Debbie Sadler

  • R H

    I drive a lorry for a living. We have to make the odd delivery to schools. So now we are to have dbs checks. My question is why? I’m delivering to the canteen and I don’t have any contact with the kids. And I’m supervised anyway. I’m asking as I have an unspent conviction from 20years ago. I had a pub fight basically with a 33yr old male. Because I was sentenced to more than 4 years my conviction will never be spent. So now I may lose my job? How why wtf? I don’t get it. I’m married with a mortgage and I have a 3 yr old boy. If I apply for jobs and I say I have an unspent conviction. I never get an interview. If I lie and don’t mention it. I get the job. I just want to provide for my family. Am I really to blame for not mentioning it???

  • Debbie – Unlock

    Hi RH

    It sounds as though your role wouldn’t be eligible for a DBS check as you don’t have any contact with the kids and you’re supervised whilst making your delivery.

    However, even if the employer only did a basic criminal record check your conviction would still be disclosed. Legally you only need to disclose a conviction if you’re asked so you’ve done nothing wrong if you weren’t asked about it. However, if you know that an employer will do some sort of official check then you’d be better off disclosing prior to the checks being done.

    Its important that when you disclose, you tell the employer that the conviction was from 20 years ago and that you’ve had a clean record ever since. Also mention that you’re now a home owner, with a family and just want to be able to provide for them.

    Good luck