The questions and answers below summarise those we are regularly asked by NHS organisations, agencies and third party contractors.
If your query is not covered, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
NHS Employers does not hold any information about individuals who are working or have worked in the NHS. All reference requests should be sent to the HR or personnel department at the relevant NHS organisation directly. Reference requests sent to email@example.com will not receive a response.
Can we accept a passport that has expired?
For the purpose of checking a person’s identity, all legal documentary evidence which has an issue date should be in date and valid. This also applies to DBS checks.
However, for right to work checks, employers can accept an expired UK passport. Please consult the UK Visas and Immigration employer’s guide for further information if you are unsure what can be accepted.
How can identity document validation technology (IDVT) be used in the pre-employment check process and still align with the NHS employment check standards?
Employers have the option of using IDVT, supplied by a certified Identity Service Provider (IDSP), for checking identity documents during the recruitment process. However, in order to meet the NHS Identity Checks Standard employers still need to see, verify and record original documents (in the combinations required) in person when the individual first takes up the position or is required to undertake induction or other type of training, whichever is sooner.
We acknowledge the movement towards digital identity checking and are in favour of aligning the NHS Standard for Identity Checking with the use of IDSPs for digital identity checks. We are also aware that the Home Office and DBS service now have digital identity arrangements in place for right to work and criminal record checking purposes. However, it is not possible to simply align with their arrangements because the type and level of assurances required to prove a persons’ right to work and/or to match to a criminal record could be lower/different to those required for our NHS identity purposes. On behalf of NHS employing organisations, we require confirmation that certified IDSPs can provide the level of assurances against our identity standards in the NHS and therefore a certification scheme to specific to the NHS will need to be implemented.
We are engaging with key stakeholders (such as NHS England, DHSC and the CQC), to make progress on this so that in future NHS organisations could have the option of using an IDSP for NHS identity checks (in the same way that the Home Office and DBS have certification schemes).
As it stands we cannot provide confirmed timescales for any potential changes to the NHS Identity Checking Standard but we will keep employers informed of progress through our Workforce Bulletin.
After the 30 June 2021, can we employ an EEA national who has not applied for settled status?
If an EEA national applies for a job with you after 30 June but has not applied to the EU Settlement Scheme by the deadline and has no alternate immigration status in the UK (such as visa under the points-based immigration system), then they will not be able to pass a right to work check and should not be employed.
There may be situations after 30 June 2021 in which you identify an EEA national in your workforce who has not applied to the EU Settlement Scheme by the deadline and does not hold any other form of leave in the UK. They may tell you they have missed the deadline through no fault of their own and you may believe it to be disproportionate were you to take immediate steps to cease their employment. Where an EEA national has reasonable grounds for missing the EUSS application deadline, they will be given a further opportunity to apply.
For EEA citizens employed prior to June 30 2021 and who have not yet applied for Settled Status, employers do not need to cease employment and instead should follow the process laid out on page 47 of Home Office Right to Work guidance.
Can we accept a passport that has expired for a right to work check?
For right to work checks, there are a small number of exceptions to the valid and current rule. These exceptions include a UK passport. Please consult the UK Visas and Immigration employer’s guide on the gov.uk website for further information if you are unsure as to what can be accepted.
Which part(s) of the passport need to be copied/scanned?
Employers need to make a copy of the relevant page or pages of the document in a format that cannot be subsequently altered, for example a photocopy or scan.
In the case of a passport or other travel document, the following parts must be photocopied or scanned: any page with the document’s expiry date, nationality, date of birth, signature, leave expiry date, biometric details and photograph, and any page containing information indicating the holder has an entitlement to enter or remain in the UK and undertake the work in question.
What are the risks to my organisation if we exclude candidates requiring skilled worker sponsorship from shortlists because the post does not satisfy the qualifications or salary requirement to qualify for skilled worker sponsorship?
You will face the risk of a challenge by individual job applicants or complaints that your recruitment practices are unlawful. The imposition of requirements which have a more disadvantageous impact on a particular group will amount to indirect discrimination, unless your organisation can objectively justify the reasons behind the requirement. Asking this question at an early stage and having a blanket policy which excludes individuals who require sponsorship will disadvantage non-UK candidates on the grounds of their nationality or citizenship, which could also amount to direct race discrimination.
The Home Office Code of practice for employers: Avoiding unlawful discrimination while preventing illegal working provides further guidance on how to avoid unlawful discrimination when conducting right to work checks. Also see our immigration and recruitment pages for guidance on avoiding discrimination during the recruitment process.
What if an individual has submitted a late application to the EU settlement scheme (EUSS) and is yet to receive a decision? Do they have the right to work?
The Home Office has confirmed EEA nationals, and their family members, who have made a late application to the EUSS, and have not yet been granted status, can continue to live in the UK and maintain a right to work until their application is finally determined. This includes pending the outcome of any appeal against a decision to refuse status. Those who made an application by the deadline, which remains outstanding after 30 June 2021, will be able to rely on their Certificate of Application as proof of eligibility to access their right to work, when this is verified by the Home Office Employer Checking Service. Increasingly, individuals will be issued their Certificate of Application digitally.
Who is responsible for paying for a DBS check?
The need for a DBS check has always been regarded as an employment requirement and because of this, a large number of NHS trusts across the country have put in place arrangements to either pay for or reimburse individuals for the fee. This arrangement is similarly replicated in the NHS and in other sectors in Scotland and Wales.
Employers however, continue to have local discretion on this matter. Any shift from pre-existing arrangements to pay or reimburse these fees will need careful consideration. Working closely with staff side will be key to ensuring any impact on the organisation's ability to recruit, especially in hard to recruit areas, and individuals themselves is fully recognised and understood.
How do you go about obtaining a criminal record check for applicants from the Republic of Ireland?
Where recruiting individuals from the Republic of Ireland, employers should ask applicants to apply directly to the Irish police (Garda) to gain access to any personal data they may hold about them. Individuals should complete a Data Protection Access Request form and return it with relevant information to Garda Criminal Records Office, Racecourse Road, Thurles, Co. Tipperary. There is a small fee for this service. Further information is available on the Garda website.
As per the form, this disclosure of data should not be construed as an all-encompassing police check. This caveat is because the check does not cater for mistakes on the application form. Employers should ensure the details on Garda’s response match what has been provided by the applicant, and if necessary complete any further mitigation (a self-declaration form, further references etc.)
Can employers obtain their own copy of the disclosure certificate?
Employers can only ask the DBS for a copy of the applicant’s disclosure certificate where all of the following conditions apply:
- the individual has subscribed to the update service
- in obtaining a status check this has revealed a change to the information provided on the original disclosure certificate
- as a result of this, a new DBS check has been applied for
- the DBS issued a new disclosure certificate to the applicant more than 28 days ago and the applicant has failed to present this to their employer or volunteering organisation
- there is still a valid reason for viewing the certificate information, for example the employment role is still available.
It is important to stress that employers must not ask applicants to request a reprint of their disclosure certificate in order to provide them with a copy. In such cases, the DBS have a right to decline any such requests. You can find more information about obtaining a copy of a DBS certificate on the DBS website.
Can we ask for periodic DBS checks on existing staff members?
There is no legal requirement for employers to undertake periodic DBS checks however, employers may choose to put local policies in place which require this.
The frequency by which employers undertake periodic checks should be determined locally and be proportionate to risk. A common timeframe applied by some NHS organisations is once every three years. When considering whether or not to implement periodic DBS checks, employers may find it beneficial to consider how they might encourage certain professionals to subscribe to the DBS update service. Further information for employers about the update service can be found on the NHS Employers website.
Any changes to current practice should be carried out in full consultation with staff and staff side colleagues to ensure all workers affected understand how this will impact on them.
Given that the law around eligibility for a DBS check may change from time to time, it is essential that employers review local policies and practices to ensure they only ask for criminal record information they are legally permitted to receive.
Do employers need to refer to the DBS even where they have already made a referral to a regulatory body?
If the employee is in a registered profession, then the employer will need to consider whether they believe that individual may have breached their professional code of practice; and, whether the matter is purely a professional issue or a safeguarding issue, or both.
The legal duty to refer to the DBS remains irrespective of any referral being made to a regulatory body.
What happens if a staff member on the update service loses their DBS certificate?
The DBS will not issue reprints of certificates unless the certificate was never received by the staff member, or if they are applying within 93 days of the date of issue and the address for resending the certificate is the same as the initial application.
Employers should explain to staff that they need to ensure they retain their certificate and their DBS certificate number, to avoid the need to repeat the initial check at full cost.
When should criminal record information be requested/checked?
Criminal record information should be requested or checked at the end of the recruitment process. This is in line with the ban the box campaign, run by Business in the Community, and helps ensure the applicant is considered on their merits and without prejudice.
For some roles, for instance those involving regulated activity, those on the barred list will not be able to apply and would be breaking the law if they did so. Employers should make this clear in the job advert.
Do we need to undertake a DBS check on all directors under the fit and proper person requirements?
NHS organisations are only required to undertake DBS checks on directors where the position meets the DBS eligibility criteria for a such a check. Employers should consider, on a case by case basis, whether director level positions meet the criteria for an enhanced, standard or basic check. Eligibility continues to be determined by the responsibilities of the job and the type of access that role permits them to have to patients. An enhanced check with barred list information must only be applied for where the director will be undertaking a regulated activity as defined by the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 and as amended by the Protection of Freedom's Act 2012.
The CQC's FAQ page confirms that providers should consider, on a case by case basis, whether their directors meet the criteria for a check.
The Fit and Proper Person Test framework and supporting guidance about the requirements and compliance can be found on the NHS England website.
Are disclosures from other home countries, for example, Scotland’s Protection of Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme acceptable, or is another check required?
The legislation for disclosures in Scotland is not the same as the legislation governing DBS checks for England. The rehabilitation periods are different and the eligibility of certain roles also varies. An organisation in England applying for a check should use DBS to ensure that English legislation has been correctly applied to the check.
What is the adult first check service and can this be applied for when making appointments in the NHS?
The DBS adults first check replaced the pre-existing Protection of Vulnerable Adults (POVA) first check which was a service originally offered to social care. NHS organisations may take advantage of this service in exceptional circumstances where any delays in appointing staff would significantly put the provision of services and patient care at risk, for example, during a flu pandemic or during winter pressures.
The check costs £6 and must be applied for alongside a request for a full enhanced DBS check. Where the check confirms that the individual is not barred from undertaking a regulated activity with the relevant workforce, and where all other pre-employment checks prove satisfactory, employers may allow the individual concerned to take up appointment in advance of receiving a copy of their full enhanced DBS disclosure certificate. In considering whether this service would be advantageous, it is important to note that:
- additional information provided within a full enhanced DBS disclosure certificate may still need to be considered and therefore appointments should be made with appropriate measures being put in place to manage that individual (such as supervision or restricted duties) until the full enhanced disclosure certificate has been received
- this check only provides assurances that the individual is not barred from working in a regulated activity with adults, and therefore must not be applied for/or relied on where the individual would be required to provide regulated activity with children. All appointments to regulated activity with children will require receipt of a full enhanced DBS disclosure certificate before appointment can be made.
How can employers ensure DBS applications are processed as quickly as possible?
To help speed up DBS application and processing times, employers can:
Ensure DBS forms are completed correctly
When completing the disclosure application form, employers must clearly indicate which workforce the individual will the working or volunteering with (for example, adults, children, or adults and children). This is to ensure that local police forces include all relevant information that may need to be considered against the role being offered.
The counter signatory must ensure that all application forms are completed correctly to avoid any unnecessary delays in the DBS’ ability to process information in a timely manner. Further guidance on completing disclosure application forms can be found on the gov.uk website.
Make use of the DBS e-bulk system for disclosure applications
The DBS’s e-bulk service allows employers to submit multiple electronic applications for DBS certificates and receive the results electronically. Use of the service can speed up the checking process and improve an employer’s ability to make timely appointments. Further information about the service can be found on the gov.uk website.
When the transition period of the UK's withdrawal from the EU ends on 31 December 2020, what will happen to the recognition of professional qualifications for registration purposes?
From the 01 January 2021 onwards, the EU Directive on the Recognition of Professional Qualifications which enabled healthcare professional regulators to recognise certain EEA-awarded professional qualifications (leading to entry of the relevant professional register), with minimal barriers via a near-automatic system, will no longer apply in the UK.
Instead, from 01 January 2021, transitional arrangements will apply. UK healthcare professional regulators will continue to recognise EEA qualifications listed in the Directive as evidence of skills, knowledge and experience regardless of the applicant's country of origin (under these transitional arrangements it is the place of qualification that counts, not the nationality of the applicant).
Different arrangements will be put in place for Swiss nationals, who will benefit from a four-year grace period from 01 January 2021 during which they will be treated in the same way EEA applicants are now, based on their nationality, not their place of qualification.
Professional regulatory bodies are working with the Department of Health and Social Care to review registration arrangements for applications from holders of EEA and Swiss qualifications.
EEA-qualified healthcare professionals who are registered to practise in the UK prior to the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020 will continue to have their recognition decision acknowledged.
For the most up to date information see the section on the UK's departure from the EU on the NHS Employers website.
Further guidance for EEA-qualified and Swiss healthcare professionals practicing in the UK from 1 January 2021 can be found on the gov.uk website.
Do we need to see and qualify every qualification?
Employers are only required to ask for and verify qualifications which are a pre-requisite for the job being applied for.
What happens if proof of qualifications can't be provided (for example, because certificates have been lost)?
Where the qualification is relevant to the post, employers should see proof of attainment. In the case of many examinations, replacement certificates can be acquired via exam boards. Employers may also be able to get proof by contacting the relevant academic institution.
If these measures fail, then ultimately the employer will have to exercise discretion and decide if they still want to go ahead with the appointment based on all the information that is available to them.
Can we accept vocational experience over and above any essential qualifications?
Most job specifications will identify essential criteria which outline any 'must have' qualifications, skills and experience required and desirable criteria, which allows for some flexibility. Whilst there is nothing stopping you from accepting vocational experience over and above any formal qualification, it is strongly recommended that this is agreed prior to going to advert with HR to ensure a fair and consistent approach to your recruitment process.
Who should I contact if I have any doubt about a qualification being genuine?
If you have any doubts about whether an overseas qualification or its UK equivalent is genuine, further information can be obtained through the UK ENIC (National Information Centre for global qualifications and skills). It was formerly known as UK NARIC, prior to the UK leaving the EU.
UK ENIC is the national agency responsible for providing information, advice and expert opinion on vocational, academic, professional skills and international qualifications to organisations recruiting from overseas and to individuals wishing to work or study in the UK.
Employers should have appropriate policies and practices in place to deal with issues relating to misrepresentation or fraudulent activity, and any action should include reporting this to the relevant authorities such as the NHS Counter Fraud Authority and the police, as necessary.
How do I verify an IELTS or OET English language certificate?
As outlined in the Professional registration and qualifications checks standard, it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that all evidence and certification provided is scrutinised and appropriately verified. For candidates being recruited from overseas, this should take place as early in the process as is possible, and before the individual travels to the UK.
Accredited language test providers, IELTS and the Occupational English Test (OET), have online verification systems to ensure language test certificates and statements of test results submitted by candidates are genuine. Any results submitted by candidates should always be checked by the employer against the available online systems to verify the test results.
- IELTS results can be verified by registering for the free online checking service
- OET has a system which enables the individual to give permission for the employer to see the results. You need to register as an employer to be able to access the service and we recommend making this a condition for prospective OET test takers.
This applies to all recruitment of prospective healthcare professionals and is not just specific to nurses.
What is the employer obligation when providing a reference?
While there is no legal obligation on employers to provide references, it is widely accepted that employers will provide references for ex-employees.
Concerns over data protection have led to many organisations producing references that only provide factual information only, for example, confirm only dates of employment, position held, as opposed to any information that may prove to be subjective. As a result of this, we have provided a range of templates in the appendices of the employment history and reference check standard which outlines the minimum information that NHS organisations should aim to seek or provide as part of a reference request.
It is important that employers make clear to all staff, their stance in regard to providing references and who they can go to within the organisation to seek a reference, with clarity being provided in contracts of employment and their intranet. Also providing information on the organisation’s website will be helpful to ensure external organisations know who they can approach when seeking a reference.
Employers owe a duty of care to both the employee and recipient, for the content of the reference.
The employing organisation must:
- adopt a policy making clear that they will only provide a factual reference and ensure this is widely communicated to all staff
- provide all references in writing
- provide a true, accurate and fair reference without malice
- not comment on alleged misconduct where a proper investigation has not been conducted or the outcome has been dismissed as unfounded
- keep accurate and up to date records of matters relating to employee's employment. This will be particularly important where allegations resulting in a grievance or disciplinary have been proven to be unfounded
- consider discussing the content of the reference with the employee first, where there is no option but to mention information that could be viewed as poor by a prospective employer so they are aware of what will be shared about them
- not provide sensitive personal information in a reference without first seeking the individual’s consent. This should be considered in line with General Data Protection Requirements (GDPR). Consent could be acquired from an exit interview, outlining the scope of a reference if one was requested.
- maintain records of all reference given and retain copies of information on which the content of the reference was based.
What’s the difference between employer references and personal/character references?
In some instances personal or character references may be required to answer questions relating to the individual outside of the workplace. The distinction between employer and personal or character references should be made clear to employees.
Employer references provide factual information about their employment and should be sent on company headed paper, official work email address or provided with the organisational stamp.
If an employee is approached to give a personal or character reference, it is advisable for them to clarify that the content will be provided through his/her relationship with the candidate in a personal capacity. Such references are not required to be on headed paper, official work email address or with the organisational stamp.
What can you do if individuals cannot provide references for a continuous period of employment?
Organisations should have a policy in place in case candidates are genuinely unable to provide references for a continuous period of three years employment. This may be for a variety of reasons such as, they have just finished full-time education and have not been in employment before, or they have had time out and have not been in employment for a significant number of years, or their previous workplace has ceased trading.
In some cases, it may be their previous employer's policy not to provide references in which case, this should have been made clear to the individual. Employers may also refuse to provide a reference because of unresolved issues such as broken relationships between the employer and employee where any such reference may be subjective. It should not be assumed that the declaration of unresolved issues automatically makes a candidate unsuitable for another position. In such cases, the employing organisation should have an open conversation with the candidate to seek further information. All discussions should be handled sensitively and on a considered on a case-by-case basis.
In all cases, organisations should make their decision to appoint based on the wider evidence gathered throughout the interview and employment check processes.
Where do you go for a reference if the organisation the candidate previously worked with, is no longer trading?
If unable to seek a reference from the candidate's previous employer because the organisation has 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.
How do you verify a reference is genuine?
Ways of ensuring the integrity of a reference include: checking the address is a professional workplace (this can often be done via a web search), ensuring the reference is signed and on letterhead or has a company stamp, verifying referee contact details on the company website and contacting the referee by phone.
What if subjective information relating to a dispute/complaint or alleged misconduct comes to light when seeking a reference?
Where references reveal any inconsistencies or doubts about the person’s suitability, the issues should be followed up and explored sensitively with the referee. It is important to keep written records of all telephone conversations. For more serious issues, you may require the referee to confirm this in writing to ensure the content of the conversation has not been misinterpreted. This is particularly important where a decision is made not to consider the person further, or where issues need to be discussed further with the candidate.
Employers often question whether they should refer to any alleged misconduct on the part of the employee during his/her employment. Our advice would be that if there has been no investigation and/or conclusion of the matter, then it would be unwise to include this information in the reference. Before including information, employers must:
- have reasonable grounds to believe that misconduct has occurred
- have carried out an investigation; and
- have a genuine belief of the individual's guilt.
We would strongly recommend that employers make arrangements to agree the content of the reference with the dismissed employee before they leave. This will provide future employers with the facts, while ensuring that the employee is aware of what information will be shared about them in a reference. It will be particularly important for employers to agree any wording which will appear in a reference with employees where a settlement agreement has been reached.
How many references are required for positions that are highly mobile, for example, agency workers or doctors on rotational training placements?
Typically, the main reasons for frequent job moves will be because the individual has been working with an agency, or they are on some form of educational rotational training programme, or they are on a fast track programme. In such cases, employers will need to make a judgement call as to whether taking up references from all the organisations the candidate may have worked with within the last three years, is relevant and proportionate to the role being applied for.
If the individual is an agency worker, we would advise that employers seek a reference from the agency, as opposed to each and every placement the candidate may have held.
If the individual is on a training placement, for example, doctors on a rotational training programme, 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.
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 start their first placement as part of a foundation training programme, employers are required to find appropriate assurances by seeking references from their medical school.
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 other employment, or have carried activities as a volunteer, or have been travelling. Any request for additional references should be proportionate to risk.
What is a finance check?
A finance check can provide details about many different aspects of a person’s financial background and, where candidates cannot provide any other documentary evidence, can be used to confirm their residing address. Depending on the type of check, it may also be used to check for a fraudulent past, or addiction (gambling, drugs or alcohol).
The type of checks available include:
- credit information listed at the applicant’s current and previous addresses including County Court Judgements (CCJs), insolvencies, bankruptcies
- 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.
Where recruiting to more senior positions (such as chief executive, director level or positions with accountability for managing public monies), employers 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 in the NHS. 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 the pre-employment check requirements outlined within the NHS Employment Check Standards. It will require a much greater degree of judgement which needs to be considered as part of national security vetting and other specialised screening assessment methods. Employers will need to assess whether a finance check is appropriate and proportionate considering the post being applied for and any risks the roles and responsibilities of the job may pose in regard to fraudulent activity being committed against the organisation.
How do you obtain a finance 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.
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.
What can you do to prevent or detect applicants who present false or misleading information?
Inaccurate information can be provided to employers in many areas on candidate documentation or at interview such as over inflating experience, increasing the number of qualifications achieved etc. While some candidates may think a "white lie" is acceptable, there is the potential that this could have a much greater impact on their future employability than they think. For example, embellishing training courses that the candidate has undertaken or experience in certain clinical procedures could have serious patient safety implications if, on the basis of this information, the employer doesn't consider crucial training or supervision because they believe the applicant is already competent in this area of practice.
There are several things employers can consider as part of the interview process such as ensuring:
- there is someone experienced in the same field as the job being advertised on the interview panel
- taking opportunity to ask further probing questions of the candidate or asking them to provide specific examples that can more easily be verified by obtaining a reference
- they include role specific assessments as part of the interview process to test levels of competency in a certain specialty/expertise/practise.
The uptake of references will be critical in sense checking whether something a candidate has included in their application form or discloses at interview is accurate. For positions that require specific experience, specialty, or expertise we would recommend that the reference application through HR makes clear that further information about their behaviour, conduct, or practise during their term of employment is required from their direct report. For doctors in training, we would recommend asking for a copy of their Record of In-training Assessment (RITA) or Annual Review of Competence Progression (ARCP), where this is obtainable i.e. they are already in employment within the NHS.
The NHS Jobs standard application form already requires individuals to sign a declaration to confirm they understand that they must provide complete and correct information, making it clear that should it be subsequently be found that they have provided any untrue or misleading information, this will result in their offer of employment, or employment (if already appointed) to be terminated. If employers are using their own application forms, they may find it helpful to ask individuals to sign a similar declaration using the wording below:
"I confirm that the above information is complete and correct and that any untrue or misleading information will give [insert organisation name] the right to terminate any employment offered. I understand that any offer of employment is subject to the employing organisation being satisfied with the results of a series of pre-employment checks, including the uptake reference, my eligibility to work in the UK, criminal record history and a work health assessment (in line with the Equality Act 2010)."
In the case of serious misdirection, employers should contact NHS Counter Fraud Authority (NHSCFA) to report incidents of staff fraud. Further guidance on preventing fraudulent activity can be found on the NHSCFA's website.
Is there a list of what immunisations might be required for different positions?
It is difficult to give a set schedule of required vaccinations as this will differ between healthcare professions and between NHS organisations. We would therefore strongly recommend that employers work with their occupational health (OH) departments to determine which immunisations might be appropriate for each role, based on what would be considered proportionate to risk, both in the relation to the health and wellbeing of the individual themselves and from any potential patient safety aspect.
Employers will find it useful to refer to further guidance and advice provided by the OH team at NHS Health at Work to ensure they comply with the most up to date legislation in this regard.
Employers will need to refer to the Department of Health and Social Care Green Book which sets out the standards that determine which vaccinations are required for different healthcare workers.
Health professionals and immunisation practitioners can register to receive updates from Public Health England on vaccination requirements.
Do employers need to undertake a work health assessment on workers supplied by agencies/contractors that are on a framework agreement?
Although employers can require and accept work health assessments carried out by agencies and third party staffing providers that are on a framework agreement, the overarching responsibility for assuring the health and safety of all workers falls to the employing organisation. It will therefore be essential for employers to seek the necessary written assurances that all workers have the necessary occupational health clearance before permitting them to take up post.
It will be imperative that agencies and other third-party staffing providers work closely with their occupational health provider to fully recognise and understand the responsibilities of both clinical and non-clinical roles and the risks associated with those roles.
Are employers required to carry out their own employment checks on agency workers/contractors?
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.
Are employers required to undertake further pre-employment checks where staff are transferring under TUPE arrangements?
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.
Are employers required to carry out their own employment checks on researchers before permitting them to undertake activities within their organisation?
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.
What assurances should employers seek when making appointments at very short notice to help deal with emergency or complex cases?
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.
How can we appoint refugees when they can often not display all the documents as required in the employment check standards?
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.
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.
Are there any flexibilities with pre-employment checks when recruiting young people who have less documentation and/or work history?
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.
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.
We are exploring the possibility of recruiting and employing individuals who will remain resident overseas (EU and further afield) and provide a virtual service to our NHS patients in England. How should we complete pre-employment checks?
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.
How can employers acquire an overseas criminal records check for individuals from Hong Kong with British National Overseas BN(O) status?
The government has issued guidance to outline what is required and what can be obtained for BN(O)s from Hong Kong who want to work in the UK. Additional guidance from the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities explains how individuals can request Certificates of No Criminal Conviction (CNCCs) (the equivalent of an overseas criminal records check) directly from the Hong Kong police force if they have an official offer of employment. If their application is approved the CNCC would then be sent to the prospective employer.
If an attempt to acquire a CNCC is unsuccessful then employers should refer to the criminal record checks standard about recording the information for efforts already made to obtain a police check. A risked-based decision would then need to be made about employing the individual, depending on what information is available and/or what else can be obtained to provide the necessary assurances.
If a student doesn't have any documentation to evidence their temporary/term time residence is it acceptable to provide documents that prove their permanent residence (eg. parents' address) for ID and DBS checks?
As long as the employer doing the checks is satisfied that there is an explanation for the discrepancy between addresses, then a document showing their permanent/parents' address is fine. If the individual also has a document evidencing their temporary residence, such as a university letter, tenancy agreement or bank statement this will further support and satisfy the checking process.
Do employers have to repeat the full pre-employment checks process for staff who ‘retire and return’ (following a minimum 24-hour break in service)?
In April 2023 new legislation was introduced to enable NHS employees, where applicable, to retire (in order to take their NHS pension where partial retirement isn’t possible) and then return to employment as long as there is at least a 24-hour break in service.
This break in service does mean, however, that in effect ‘retire and returnees’ are still classified as new starters because they are being re-employed on a new contract. The terms of the new contract, though, may be drawn up on the same basis as the previous contract of employment to reflect the continuation of service that would have been achieved, had partial retirement been possible. Further information on this is available on our website.
Due to the new contract of employment, employers may need to repeat at least part of the pre-employment checking process depending on the situation. Should the terms of the individual’s role remain the same (i.e. there are no changes to the role or responsibilities that would trigger any new employment checks) then employers should review and verify the information they already hold.
Because of Home Office regulations and auditing requirements it will be necessary to undertake a right to work check again before re-employing the individual. Please refer to the Home Office guidance.
For all other checks (on the basis that the terms of a new contract are the same), employers are advised to take the opportunity to verify that all details recorded about the individual on their electronic staff record (ESR) are up-to-date, and that there is no relevant information on their personnel record that may need to be considered against their suitability for the role. They must also ensure that there remains a record of every check conducted.
If the individual returns and is employed on a contract with different terms (or moves into a different role) the above still applies but some of the checks may need additional consideration, such as:
- the level/type of DBS check (eligibility for the role)
- a new work health assessment
- qualification and registration requirements.
Please refer to all six NHS employment check standards as part of this process.