FAQs: Employment history and reference checks 

FAQs - employment history checks

03 / 7 / 2015 1.56pm

Read answers to commonly asked questions on the employment history and reference check requirements.

Q. How many references are required for positions that are highly mobile, for example: agency workers, doctors and rotational training programmes?

Typically, the main reason for frequent job moves is because the individual has either been working with an agency, they have been on placement as part of a training programme, or they are on a fast track programme. Employers should make a judgement call as to whether taking up references from all employers disclosed by the applicant within the last three years is likely to provide additional information which is relevant and proportionate for the role being applied for. 

If the individual is an agency worker - we would recommend that employers seek a reference from the agency.

If the individual is on a training programme, for example, in the case of a doctor on rotational training, then the recommendation is that you obtain a reference from the individual’s host employer and previous clinical placement – requiring evidence of their most recent Record of In-Training Assessment (RITA) or Annual Review of Competence Progression (ARCP) will be helpful in verifying that there are no concerns about conduct.

Any period which highlights a number of unexplained frequent moves should be further investigated in-case there is some other underlying reason such as poor practice or disciplinary action.

Q. What references are required for newly qualified doctors starting their first placement as part of their Foundation training?

Where newly qualified doctors are going straight from medical school to commence their first placement as part of a foundation training programme, employers are required to find appropriate assurances by seeking references from their medical school. References should cover a three year period.

Additional references are only normally required where the individual has had a break in between leaving medical school and starting their foundation programme training - for example, where they have been in employment or have undertaken a volunteering activity, or gone travelling as outlined by the Employment history and reference check standard. Any request for additional references should always be proportionate to risk.

Q. Where do you go for a reference if the company they previously worked at is no longer trading?

Where you are unable to seek a reference from their previous employer because the organisation they worked for has since ceased trading, we would recommend that you seek references from their last known employer and a character/personal reference – preferably from a business acquaintance where possible.

Q. What is a finance check and are they mandatory in the NHS?

Financial checks can provide details about many different aspects of a person’s financial background. Types of checks include:

  • credit information listed at the applicant’s current and previous addresses including County Court Judgements (CCJs), insolvencies, bankruptcies 
  • a credit history report from a credit reference agency UK Directors search, to ascertain whether the applicant holds any current or previous directorships or any disqualified directorships
  • searches against the Financial Service Authority’s (FSA) individual register and prohibited persons register.

For sensitive positions, you may wish to include relevant questions on the application form such as “have you ever been the subject of a County Court Judgement (CCJ)?”

Finance checks are not mandatory. It is important to point out that interpreting the security implications of financial information is not straightforward, and is not seen as a core aspect of pre-employment screening. It will require a far greater degree of judgement than the other pre-employment checks which are outlined within the NHS Employment check standards, and is dealt with in full during national security vetting and other specialised screening assessment methods.

Normally, financial checks are carried out to investigate the financial background of potential employees who are being appointed into a position of trust e.g. chief executives, board director levels, or posts which involve the management or handling of organisational budgets and monies.

Financial checks may also be used to provide further confirmation of an individual’s address and, dependent on the type of check, can be used to check for a fraudulent past or bad habit such as gambling, drink or drug abuse.

Employers will need to make judgement as to whether a financial check is appropriate for the post being applied for against the roles and responsibilities of the job, and identify any risks of fraudulent activity against the organisation.

Q. How do you obtain a financial check?

Enquiries may be conducted in a number of ways including:

  • as part of an electronic identity search whereby a number of companies can run a search on an individual’s details across financial service/credit databases. Which, combined with verifying an applicant’s identity, enables the employer to discover any relevant financial data held against the individual’s details
  • credit reference agencies can provide individual credit reports
  • commercial pre-employment businesses can offer financial reports either as a stand-alone report, or combined with other services such as identity, employment and qualification searches.

There are three main credit agencies that make available public information such as electoral roll, CCJs and payment history data. These are:

Please note that NHS Employers accepts no responsibility for any content on the above websites, nor do we recommend or endorse specific companies to the NHS, decisions to use any of their financial services should be down to local tender.

Q. Can you employ someone who has financial debt?

It is essential to point out that debt in itself does not necessarily present a security problem, depending on an individual’s circumstances and their ability to repay the debt. If there are concerns, such as defaults, bad payment history or CCJs, employers must sensitively discuss these with the applicant before making any judgement as to whether allowing them to take up the position being applied for would pose any risks to the organisation.

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