Employment check FAQs

Find answers and further information about the NHS employment check standards.

4 March 2022

The general questions and answers below summarise those we are regularly asked by NHS organisations, agencies and third party contractors.

There is also a list of FAQs on all of our employment checks pages, specific to each standard:

If your query is not covered, please contact the employment checks team.

Please note that NHS Employers is unable to provide advice to individuals regarding their appointment in the NHS or on other personal employment issues. 

Any queries in the first instance should be directed to the recruiting manager of the organisation concerned, or directed to the HR/personnel department. Additional advice may be sought from your union representative or you can get independent advice from the Citizen's Advice Bureau.

General questions

  • Using an agency/contractor on a national framework agreement with the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) may provide a level of assurance of a compliant workforce. However this cannot offer any guarantees in terms of patient safety and standards of care.

    Therefore, irrespective of any duties the employing organisation may place on their chosen agency/contractor to undertake the necessary employment checks on temporary workers, the overarching responsibility for assuring safe working practice falls to the employing organisation.

    Organisations must check all relevant information given on the temporary worker supplied. Organisations should seek assurances through their own scheduled audit and monitoring processes, that their chosen agency/contractor operates within the same high standards outlined by the NHS employment check standards. If in doubt, duplication will be preferable to gaps.

  • Although an individual’s terms and conditions transfer under the protection of TUPE rights, liability for assuring safe working practice sits with the new employing organisation.

    The new employing organisation should always seek written assurances that the relevant checks were undertaken by the previous employer in line with the NHS Employment check standards. Additional checks may be required where such assurances cannot be sought, for example, where legal requirements have changed since the individual was first appointed (paying particular attention to any disclosure and barring service (DBS) requirements, or Home Office rules in regard to preventing illegal working).

    Employers are recommended to seek legal advice for further clarity in relation to arrangements under the Collective of Redundancies and Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) (Amendment) Regulations 2014.  Further guidance for employers, employees and representatives can be found on the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills website.

  • The responsibility for undertaking pre-engagement checks on researchers will be dependent on the agreed contractual arrangements:

    • where researchers have been processed through the research passport system, the Higher Education Institution (HEI) should undertake the necessary pre-engagement checks
    • where individuals are undertaking research activity in an NHS organisation and, in addition, already hold a substantive contract of employment within the NHS, or where they are clinical academics with an honorary clinical contract, the research passport system does not apply.  Responsibility for undertaking pre-engagement checks rests with the researcher’s substantive employer.

    In all cases, the organisation hosting the research activity must seek the relevant written assurances from the researcher’s HEI or substantive employer, that the correct level of checks have been undertaken in line with the NHS employment check standards.

    Where individuals hold a research passport, and once the organisation hosting the research activity has satisfied itself that appropriate checks have been recorded on the passport, these clearances can be relied upon for the full duration of the research activity, or for up to a maximum of three years, whichever may be the longest period.

    There are however, certain circumstances where additional checks may be deemed justifiable. This includes where there is a change in the research activity which would trigger the need for a higher level of checks than those initially obtained; the individual has limited leave to remain and therefore there is a legal responsibility under Home Office rules to undertake a further check on the individual's right to work; or where there is any uncertainty about the robustness of the pre-engagement checks conducted or the validity of the research passport.  In such cases, the organisation hosting the research activity should liaise with the researcher, their substantive employer, or their HEI to clarify any issues.

    At a practical level, the organisation hosting the research activity should always ask the researcher to present an acceptable form of personal photo ID when reporting on their first day. This will help to seek the necessary assurances that the individual presenting themselves is the one to whom the research passport or associated employer assurances relates to.

    For more detailed information about the use of honorary contracts and research passports, employers should refer to guidance on the National Institute of Health Research website.

  • Doctors and clinicians are regarded as being in continuous employment where they already hold a substantive post within one NHS organisation and where they are asked to provide emergency cover or expertise in complex cases in another NHS organisation at short notice. Therefore in such cases, further pre-employment checks are not normally required.  The hosting organisation should seek written assurances from the individual's substantive employer to verify that the appropriate checks have been undertaken and that the individual is suitable and fit to undertake the clinical role in question.

  • The NHS Employers pre-employment check standards contain flexibilities that employers may exercise when an applicant is genuinely unable to present the documents as laid out in the standards. These are often applicants that are furthest from the jobs market, for example homeless people, people with learning disabilities, asylum seekers, refugees and other forcibly displaced people.

    We have outlined below the existing flexibilities that may be exercised when appointing refugees.

    Identity check

    Refugees should receive a biometric residence permit once their visa is approved. This document can be used as photographic evidence of identity. Employers should refer to the obtaining proof of identity from those furthest from the jobs market section of the identity checks standard.

    If pre-employment checks are being conducted for refugees and other forcibly displaced people who are overseas, employers may choose to accept other forms of documentary evidence such as a passport or a travel document to check identity. Once granted leave to remain in the UK by the Home Office, employers must ask individuals to present their biometric residence permit and national insurance number to verify their identity and check right to work in the UK with a share code using the Home Office online service.

    Right to work check

    We defer to the Home Office on right to work guidance. If granted leave to remain in the UK, a refugee will be issued with a national insurance number and biometric residence permit and/or an Immigration Status Document (ISD) which clarifies their permission to work. Employers should ask the individual for a share code to evidence their right to work using the Home Office online service, see the right to work check standard.

    For more detailed information on acceptable documentation for different groups, see the Home Office guidance for employers on right to work checks

    Employment history and reference check

    Refugees are typically unable to contact former employers or places of study in their country of origin to obtain references. Additionally, many countries from which refugees flee have been impacted by armed conflict, and many of the organisations from which references might be sought may no longer exist.

    Where limited references are available, the decision to appoint must be based on what the applicant can reasonably provide to support their application. They may be able to provide references from individuals they have worked with in the UK. If they have received support from a charity or community organisation they may have worked with English teachers, advice workers and employment advisers who can comment on the character and conduct of the person. They may also be able to provide references from voluntary work. See the employment history and reference check standard for more information. 

    Criminal record check standard

    Refugees should be asked to present a police check from countries that they have lived in for 12 months or more. An alternative to a formal police check is a certificate of good conduct or standing.

    The Home Office has confirmed that Ukrainian citizens can apply via the website of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, electronic administrative services section, for an extract of information: Information record on criminal prosecution and criminal record in Ukraine. The requested information will be emailed to them. To apply for such service the Ukrainian citizen will need an electronic signature. After receiving an extract in Ukrainian language they will need to apply for a letter from the Embassy of Ukraine, which will confirm the information in the extract in English language and could be used in the UK.

    For many countries where refugees have lived, obtaining a police check can be difficult, due to the circumstances of that country. If candidates are unable to provide an overseas police check, employers should refer to the Unable to obtain an overseas police check section of the criminal record check standard for guidance.

    In addition to any overseas police check, the Home Office recommends that employers should obtain a DBS check to assure themselves that the person does not have a criminal record in the UK; and, where relevant to the role, is not barred from working with children and/or adults.

    Refugees in the UK should be able to present a biometric residence permit and proof of their current UK address to meet the identity requirements for a DBS check to be processed, see the criminal record check standard for guidance.

  • With an ageing workforce across health and social care, there is a need to offer targeted support and build sustainable pathways into jobs and careers for young people. However, issues often arise for employers when undertaking pre-employment checks, due to the young person having a lack of documentation and work history, for example.

    To help overcome some perceived barriers we have outlined below the existing flexibilities that may be exercised when employing young people.

    For more information, please see our recruit and retain young people toolkit. It provides a series of practical, bite-sized guides about recruiting and retaining young people in the NHS.

    Identity checks

    Young people may not have a passport or driving licence, and some might not be able to afford the application for one. Therefore, to meet identity check standards, employers can request a passport sized photograph which is counter-signed on the back by a person of some standing in the community

    Young people can also show an identity card carrying the PASS accreditation logo (UK, including Channel Islands and Isle of Man), such as a UK Citizen ID card or a Connexions card (must be valid and in-date). They can apply online and there is a £15 fee for a non-urgent request and a £30 fee for an urgent request.

    In terms of proof of address documentation for a young person please see our guidance in the identity checks standard. For candidates who are genuinely unable to provide the combination of documents suggested in the standard, employers may choose to accept other forms of documentary evidence at local discretion. The type of alternative documents they might wish to consider accepting will be dependent on the risks associated with the role and what the applicant can genuinely present them with, to give the necessary assurances.

    Employment history and references checks

    Young people often won’t have any employment history due to their age. Where limited references are available, the decision to appoint must be based on what the applicant can reasonably provide to support their application. This may be a personal or character reference to determine a young person’s reliability, skills and experiences. These types of references can be from acquaintances that are not related to the applicant, and who do not hold any financial arrangements with that individual. Personal acquaintances may include professors, academic advisors, or someone of some standing in the applicant’s community. See page 7 of the employment history and references checks standard.

    Criminal record checks (including DBS checks)

    Not all NHS positions will be eligible for a DBS check. The need and level of check required depends on the activities and type of patient access the person will have in any given role. Use our DBS check eligibility tool to determine whether or not an individual is eligible for a DBS check. You can also find more information using our document role eligibility for DBS checks

    A young person on work experience must be supervised at all times and therefore does not require a DBS check.  

    Further advice can be found in the quick guide to DBS checks.

    Please also refer to our criminal record checks standard for more detailed guidance.

  • See the guidance issued by Capsticks (and partners) about recruiting and engaging staff to work overseas on a permanent basis. The guidance will help you to work through the legal considerations for safe employment practices when implementing overseas working arrangements, including immigration and permission to work, tax and social security issues. 

    For pre-employment checking processes in this situation, please refer to information below.

    Right to work checks – if all the work to be performed under the employment contract is to be done outside the UK, then no UK immigration permission is needed. If you will require the individual to visit the UK for business purposes, you must consider whether they will be free to enter the UK or will require a visit visa. More information about immigration and permission to work can be found in Capsticks guidance on recruiting and engaging staff to work overseas.  

    Criminal record checks – should be carried out in line with the NHS Employment Check Standards. Overseas police certificates must be provided for eligible roles for any country in which the applicant has resided in for 12 months or more (whether continuously or in total) in the last 10 years, while aged 18 or over. Each country has a different process for obtaining a criminal record check. The DBS has published an A-Z list of countries detailing how to obtain a check from each one. Applicants will need to provide you with their original certificate(s) for employment checking purposes.  

    In addition to any overseas police check, the Home Office recommends that employers should obtain a DBS check for eligible roles to assure themselves that the person does not have a criminal record in the UK; and, where relevant to the role, is not barred from working with children and/or adults. It they are not from the UK, it may affect which identity documents they should provide, see the DBS identity checking guidelines (route one) if you are not sure.    

    For more information refer to section 7.2 on overseas police checks in the NHS Criminal Record Check Standard.  

    Identity checks – if the applicant is not from the UK, it may affect which identity documents they need to provide; see the NHS Identity Checks Standard if you are not sure what they should provide. As always, they must provide valid, current and original documents. If the applicant is overseas you can conduct the identity check via live video link, however, you must be in physical possession of the documents at the time of the check, so the applicant would need to send these to you in the post in advance.  

    Employment history and reference checks – should be carried out in line with the NHS Employment Check Standards. Factual references should be routinely sought as part of the selection process for all appointments in the NHS. For new appointments from outside of the NHS, employers should seek the necessary references to validate a period of three consecutive years of continuous employment or training immediately prior to the application being made. A translated copy must be provided where the reference is not issued in English, it is advisable to inform applicants of this requirement as early in the recruitment process as possible, to avoid delays.      

    Professional registration and qualifications checks – should be carried out in line with the NHS Employment Check Standards to ensure the individual is registered with the relevant professional body and they meet the required standards of training, competency and conduct to practice safely in their chosen profession. For roles where UK registration is required, this will still be a requirement where the individual will be practising from outside the UK but providing services to NHS patients in England. 

    If you need help checking international qualifications, the UK NARIC (the UK national agency for the recognition and comparison of international qualifications and skills) can help you compare international qualifications with the equivalent levels of UK qualifications. They can also help you authenticate qualifications and detect fraudulent documentation. 

    Work health assessments – should be carried out in line with the NHS Employment Check Standards. A health assessment should be carried out for all individuals applying for NHS positions.