Having recruited a new member of staff, and undertaken the relevant DBS checks before taking them on, many employers will want to renew this check at regular intervals. In this way, you can ensure that any existing employee continues to meet the required standards, and hasn’t for example, been convicted a criminal record in the interim.
The following DBS check renewal guide looks at the rules relating to criminal record checks carried out through the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) — from the validity period of DBS checks, to when and in what circumstances a check will need to be renewed.
How long are DBS checks valid for?
As a reputable employer and organisation, you’ll not only want to ensure that you undertake the prescribed level of DBS check when recruiting, but also that all existing members of staff are suitable to undertake the work that they’re doing on an ongoing basis.
In England and Wales, a DBS check has no official expiration date. However, even though there’s no strict legal requirement that says a check should be renewed, employers still reserve the right to ask an employee to consent to a renewal. This is because the criminal record certificate presents a statement of facts at a set point in time, where no new convictions, cautions or other relevant information will be added. The certificate is merely a snapshot of an individual’s criminal record, and eligibility to undertake regulated activity, on a specific date, where it will be up to the employer to decide when a new check is needed.
The timescale for a DBS check renewal is typically at the employer’s discretion, and can vary from 6 months to every 2-3 years, although much will depend on the nature of the business and the job role in question. In some cases, when a renewal check should take place will depend on whether the organisation falls within the scope of a governing or regulatory body. In certain industry sectors, a new criminal record check may be advised periodically.a
By law, you may also be required to carry out a fresh check of the DBS children’s and/or adults’ barred lists in accordance with sector-specific guidance, helping to keep those who are known to present a risk to youngsters and vulnerable adults out of the workforce.
How should the validity period of a DBS check be decided?
In the absence of sector-specific guidance, the official advice from the DBS is that there’s no general requirement to repeat criminal record checks for staff that remain employed within the same organisation where there’s no change in their place or terms of work. In this context, it’s entirely up to the employer to decide if, and when, a new check is needed.
In contrast, if an existing employee changes roles within an organisation, it may be necessary for their DBS check to be renewed. For example, if an individual moves into a new role that means they’ll have direct contact with people in a vulnerable position, they would need to undertake a new higher-level check, such as an enhanced disclosure check. The DBS also suggests that when someone changes employer, regardless of the role, they should have their check renewed, even though any prior check doesn’t have an end date.
If you decide to impose a requirement on existing members of staff for a DBS check renewal, within a prescribed timeframe, ideally the circumstances in which a renewal will be required should be set out in writing within a workplace policy. This policy should be made easily accessible, and clearly communicated across your workforce, so that staff are aware of this requirement. Given the fact that renewed DBS checks are not strictly required, it’s also worth providing a written explanation for the reasons behind your policy decision.
Whilst many employers have developed their own policies around renewing DBS checks, to counter the problems arising from previous DBS checks becoming almost instantly out-of-date, careful consideration should still be given as to when renewals are necessary. Much, of course, will depend on the type of work being undertaken. However, by first conducting a risk assessment, within the context of your organisation and the job roles involved, this will enable you to fairly determine the need for regular renewals, proportionate to the risks involved.
DBS check renewal process
The application process for a DBS check renewal is exactly the same as a check on a new employee. There’s no fast-track service, where a renewal will require a fresh application, although the way in which this is done will depend on the level of check required.
An individual can apply for a basic DBS check online, or through a Responsible Organisation registered with the DBS to submit basic checks. As the employer, you can also apply for a basic DBS check on an employee’s behalf, provided you have their consent. A request for a standard or enhanced check cannot be requested by the individual. Instead, these must be submitted either by the employer, provided the organisation is registered to do so, or by an umbrella body that’s registered to give other non-registered businesses access to DBS checks.
As either an employer or registered body, you should provide the candidate with a DBS application form to complete and return to you, together with the necessary proof of their identity and address. It can seem strange to ask someone whose already in your employment to prove who they are, but it remains an essential part of the renewal process. The same rules relating to which documents can be used to verify someone’s identity apply here as for the initial DBS application — although different documents can be used each time, provided they fall within the approved DBS list of documentation.
The cost for a basic DBS check is £23. Once payment has been made, this can take up to 14 days to be processed. The cost to carry out a standard DBS check for a paid position is £23, and £40 for an enhanced check, although an administration fee may be charged by the organisation that submits the application to the DBS. For these higher levels of checks, each application is different where the completion time can vary with some checks taking longer.
What is the DBS Update Service?
Most employers will request a new DBS check from successful job applicants, even if the prospective new recruit already has a criminal record certificate when they’re offered the role. This is to ensure that the information on the certificate is not out-of-date. Many employers will also request DBS check renewals at regular intervals for existing members of staff.
However, for standard and enhanced DBS checks, workers can register for the DBS “Update Service”. This online service will keep an individual’s DBS certificate up-to-date and, with the employee’s permission, allows employers to check if anything changes on their certificate. With its’ real-time data, this offers an ideal alternative to having to make a fresh application every time a renewal is required, whether this be where an individual is moving from role to role within the same organisation, or moving to a different role with a new employer.
At an annual cost of just £13, the aim of the DBS Update Service is to improve the ease and speed of the recruitment process for those within regulated industries, such as education or health and social care, allowing employers to access free online status checks and be notified of any new information relating to that check.
The outcome of an online status check will be one of the following:
- The certificate didn’t reveal any information, and remains current, as no other information has been identified since its’ issue. This means that the person’s certificate contains no criminality or barring information, and that no new information is available.
- The certificate remains current as no other information has been identified since its’ issue. This means that the individual’s certificate did contain criminality or barring information, and no new information is available.
- The certificate is no longer current. In these circumstances, the individual will need to apply for, or consent to, a new DBS check to get the most up-to-date information. This means that the individual’s certificate should not be relied upon as new information is now available, and you should request a renewed DBS check.
- The Update Service reduces the need for multiple requests for certificates where an individual either moves job role or organisation. If a prospective or existing employee hasn’t subscribed to the Update Service, it’s the employer’s decision to decide whether or not to accept a previously-issued DBS check. However, you should always bear in mind that an individual’s criminal record, or other relevant information, may have changed since its’ issue, and the level of that check may also not be right for the position that you’re recruiting for.
- The Update Service is only available for standard and enhanced checks. It doesn’t apply to basic level checks, where a fresh application would need to be made every time.
DBS compliance requirements for employers
It’s the responsibility of the employer to decide whether someone is eligible for a DBS check and, if so, what level the check should be ‘and’ when this should be renewed. There are four different levels of DBS checks, providing varying degrees of information about a prospective or existing employee, depending on the type of job role involved: the basic check, the standard check, the enhanced check and the enhanced DBS check with Barred List(s).
A basic DBS check is the lowest level of criminal record check, where the certificate will set out details of convictions and conditional cautions that are considered to be unspent under the relevant legislation. A standard or enhanced DBS check will reveal details of both spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and warnings that are held on the Police National Computer. The enhanced check also involves an extra level of check with local police forces.
An enhanced DBS check with Barred List(s) will show whether an individual is prevented from working in a regulated activity or role, either with children or with adults, or both. As an employer, you’ll be breaking the law if you knowingly employ, or continue to employ, someone in a regulated activity with youngsters or vulnerable groups of people.
This means that you must have the right level of DBS check in place, even for an existing employee for whom a prior check has been undertaken, especially if they’re being recruited into a new role. For example, if someone works in a care home handling administration, it’s likely that a standard DBS check will already have been undertaken. If, however, that person is then recruited into a role which involves coming into contact with vulnerable adults, you may have to apply for an enhanced DBS check, or an enhanced DBS check with Barred List(s).
As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris provides a specialist, comprehensive pre-employment check service for employers. Combining DBS and Right to Work checks into a streamlined onboarding service, your organisation can benefit from informed decision-making, and compliant and safe recruitment and workforce management. We also advise on specialist aspects of background checks, including advice on developing and drafting a policy on recruiting ex-offenders and overseas checks. For help and advice on reducing risk through DBS checks, please contact us.
DBS check renewal FAQs
How do I renew my DBS certificate?
You can renew your DBS certificate by making a fresh application. However, you can also register for the DBS Update service. This is an online subscription providing access to online standard and enhanced status checks using real-time data.
Does a DBS expire after 3 years?
DBS checks don’t have an expiration date, although there may be certain sector-specific guidance that requires DBS checks to be renewed at regular intervals, for example, DBS check renewals are usually every 3 years in the NHS.
How often should a DBS certificate be renewed?
There's no official expiry date on a DBS check, although many employers will periodically renew their employee’s checks as a matter of best practice. Timescales can vary from 6 months to every 2-3 years, depending on the job role.
What documents do I need to renew my DBS?
To renew a DBS check, you’ll still need to provide a range of documents to prove your identity and address.
Last updated: 26 August 2023