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Background checks are an increasingly common step in the recruitment process, for a whole host of different industries. Organisations want to protect themselves against hiring an employee which could damage the company, and will do checks such as identity verification to make sure you are who you say you are, taking up references or making sure you have claimed qualifications. The depth of background checks can vary significantly, but employment-related background checks here in the UK typically delve into someone’s history over the past five years.

Who Does the Background Screening?

Usually, pre-employment checks or background screening are done by the HR department of the prospective employer. Some companies choose not to do the screening themselves and outsource the work to an external screening provider. This often makes the process quicker and more efficient. Background screening is all about making sure that employers have all the information possible before making a job offer to a candidate.

Types of Employment Checks

By law, employers in the UK are obliged to make sure that they are employing people who are in the UK legally and have the right to work here. This basic level of checking applies to everyone and is known as “Right to Work Checks”. The most common way of doing the Right to Work Check is to ask employees to bring their passport for verification of nationality and visa restrictions, if any. Apart from Right to Work, other employment checks will vary between employers, and industry sectors. Some financial services companies will require credit report checking, other roles in education or social care will ask for a DBS check on your criminal record. Companies may also look at your social media accounts, or phone up previous employers to take references. Employers should be open and transparent with their workers about what they are checking, and why.

Extent of Checks

The type of employment will determine how far into your past the employer will want to check. For most roles, you can expect screening companies to be interested in the past five years. The exception to this is when you require an enhanced DBS check, perhaps for a role in healthcare or working with children. An enhanced DBS check can look at your entire criminal record, not just the previous five years.
Employers use all of the information revealed in background checks, along with your application and interview performance to decide whether to offer you a position or not.

Length of Time for Background Checking

There is no standard time for background checking to be completed. A very basic level of background check may take as little as 48 hours, up to as long as four weeks for detailed background checking. Employers should get your consent for background checking and explain what factors they will be looking at. You do of course have the right to refuse to agree to background checking, but the consequence of this is probably that you won’t be offered the job.