An employers guide to using the DBS update service

This guidance gives employers key information about the DBS update service and how to use it.

11 February 2022

Purpose of this guidance

  • The DBS update service can be used to strengthen pre-existing safeguarding measures and has the potential to reduce the time and cost spent on recruitment. This guidance aims to provide clarity on each of the sections below.

  • Benefits for employers

    • There are no application forms to complete, reducing administrative burden.
    • Instant check against an applicant's disclosure certificate (must be standard or enhanced), speeding up the process and ability to appoint.
    • Increased safeguards through a two-way link between the Electronic Staff Record (ESR) and DBS systems, enabling automatic updates of a person's criminal record status (every 60 days) and the ability to transfer high level information when considering making a referral to the DBS.

    Benefits for employees and volunteers

    • For an annual subscription fee of £13 (free for volunteers) an individual can take a pre-disclosed DBS certificate with them from role to role (providing the new role does not change the type of access they have with adults and/or children or the type of clearances required).
    • Individuals have more control over who has access to their criminal record information. 
  • An individual can join the update service before submitting a DBS disclosure application, during the application process, or after the issue of their DBS disclosure certificate.

    Please note, the service is for standard and enhanced DBS checks only. It is not currently available for basic checks.

    Employing organisations should provide information about the update service to individuals during recruitment, so they understand what they need to do to sign-up.

    Individuals can join the service in two ways:

    • with their application form reference number before the application is submitted, or during the application process - employers can provide this, or individuals can find it in the top right-hand corner of the front page of the application form
    • with the application e-reference number, if employers are submitting applications electronically using the DBS's e-bulk service.

    Applications to join the update service using the application form reference or e-reference number must be received by the DBS within 28 days of the subscription being created. Applications received by the DBS on or after the 28th day will be rejected. 

    The DBS will add the applicant's certificate to their account once it has been issued, their subscription will then be live.

    Individuals joining the update service using an existing certificate reference number must provide this information within 30 days of the date-of-issue displayed on the certificate.

    A checklist on joining the update service can be shared with individuals.


  • An employer must have a legitimate interest in the individual they intend to status check. For example, the individual is in employment, volunteering or contracted to provide services in the organisation wishing to complete a check.

    Further information on status checking can be found on the DBS website.

  • Individuals

    • Individuals can subscribe to the update service on the DBS website.
    • Individuals holding a gender registration certificate or who do not want to disclose previous gender/name changes to the employing organisation should contact the DBS sensitive applications team. They can do this by emailing, telephoning 0151 676 1452, or writing to Sensitive applications team, customer services, PO box 165, Liverpool, L69 3JD. Information about previous gender/name will not be released on the online portal or in the DBS disclosure certificate if individuals go through this route.
    • Individuals can track the progress of their application through the DBS's online tracking service.
    • Further information can be found on the DBS website.


    • Employers can complete a status check on the DBS website. After viewing the original DBS certificate, the authorised person must enter the name of their organisation, their forename and their surname.  The following details of the DBS certificate will then be checked:
      • DBS certificate number
      • surname of the DBS certificate holder, as specified on their DBS certificate
      • date of birth of the DBS certificate holder, as recorded on the DBS certificate.
    • Further guidance can be found on the DBS website.
    • Individuals can join the update service for an annual subscription fee of £13.
    • Volunteers can join the update service for free. However, if they move into paid employment they must pay the £13 subscription fee the next time it is due for renewal.
    • Payment must be completed online, with a card.
    • Access for employers is free, but they must have the individual's permission to conduct a status check.
  • A status check will give one of four responses:

    • the certificate is clear and there is no new information - this means the employer can accept the individual's current DBS certificate and confirm their appointment
    • the certificate contains information, but no new information - this means the employer must make a recruitment decision based on the information provided in the individual's original DBS certificate
    • new information is known - this means new information has been recorded since the individual's last DBS check. A new DBS certificate must now be requested
    • details not found - this could mean the the individual's subscription has not yet been processed or they have not yet subscribed. It could mean the individual has provided wrong information, the employer must reconfirm the information provided with the individual.
  • Effectiveness of the update service in enabling portability is reliant on individual's maintaining their subscription. Employers should make clear the individual's responsibility to ensure their account details are kept up-to-date at al times, to ensure subscription does not lapse. 

    The DBS will send out two notifications to alert individuals of their subscription expiry date - four weeks then two weeks before the expiry date. It is encouraged that employers also put in place arrangements to prompt individuals to renew their subscription.

    Employers should also remind individuals of their responsibility to ensure the following details remain correct during their subscription to the update service:

    • name
    • address
    • bank and/or card details - these can only be updated at the point of renewing.

    Failure to keep details up-to-date will result in subscription lapsing. This will mean employers will cease to receive automatic updates on the individual's criminal record status. A new DBS check will be required for an individual to re-subscribe.  

  • Guidance for employers and applicants, including promotional materials that employers may wish to use in their communications with staff, can be found on the DBS website.

    Further guidance and resources to help employers determine eligibility for DBS checks can be found on the NHS Employers website.