Background Checks – 10 Common Misconceptions

Since EBC Global formed, we have come across many misconceptions regarding background checks.

This has ranged from companies believing they only had to perform a right to work check; to the misunderstanding that there is a ‘one size fits all’ background check process.

In this article, we debunk 10 myths surrounding UK background checks.

Employers will only perform a right to work check

Within certain industries in the UK, a right to work check is the only check required by law.

However, it is strongly discouraged to limit a background check to just a right to work check. All this will tell you is that your candidate/employee has the legal right to work in the UK.

What you want from a background is a full picture of your candidate. Alongside a right to work check, this should include:

  • A criminal record check
  • Social media screening
  • Employment and educational references
  • Credit check (if relevant to the role)
  • A DVLA check (if relevant)
  • Sanctions check
  • A medical check (if a good bill of health is required for the role. E.g., pilot)

Without appropriate background checks, your organisation could hire poorly, leading to legal, reputational, and irreparable financial damage.

Criminal record checks are required by law

Regardless of the role, it is highly recommended you perform a criminal record check (DBS check) on your staff. However, these checks are not required by law in every sector.

If the role requires your staff to work with children or vulnerable adults, then they will need to go through an enhanced DBS check. For example, teachers, social workers, foster carers, etc.

Criminal record checks are also required by law in finance, law, and security sectors. These include solicitors, vets, accountants, security guards, to name a few.

If you decide to make criminal record checks a part of your pre-employment screening process (even if it is not required by law in your sector), then you need to make sure the check is proportionate to the role.

Do note: your candidate can decline a criminal record check if it is not required by law in your sector.

We provide a list of jobs that require either a basic, standard or enhanced DBS check.

Employment references will be enough to hire

Receiving glowing employment references can lead to you assuming your candidate is good enough for the job. However, this is not always the case.

Many of our clients have found that their candidate’s background checks have come back with red flags (e.g., poor credit history, criminal record), despite positive employment references.

Whilst good employment references are important, you must take out other essential background checks to prevent a bad hire.

Employers are not allowed to check candidate’s social media presence

If your candidate’s social media profiles are within the public domain, you can include that information within your background check process. Social media can reveal behavioural information about your candidate that may not have been revealed during the interview process.

However, there are legal consequences if you get this wrong. If after a social media screening you decide not to hire a candidate, then this must be justified. For example, you cannot decide to turn down a candidate because of one of their personal characteristics (race, religion, or sexual orientation). In these instances, candidates can take legal action and be awarded compensation.

Employers will not hire someone with a criminal record

As an employer, it is up to you whether you decide to hire someone with a criminal record. You may decide the nature of the conviction does not matter for the role, and you can proceed with hiring.

Again, this varies depending on industry. For example, if your candidate is applying to be an accountant and their criminal record check reveals they committed financial fraud, then there would be legal ramifications if you hire them.

If you feel the unspent conviction/s revealed could pose a danger to your organisation, then you can refuse to employ the candidate.

I can perform a background check without the candidate’s permission

With the current data protection laws imposed by GDPR, you must have the candidate’s permission before you process their data and perform background checks.

It is illegal to perform background checks without the candidate’s consent.

It is strongly advised that you put together a consent form for your candidate, which details how you will process and store their data. This should also extend to existing employees, particularly if you have to perform specific background checks regularly.

Only large companies have to do background checks

It is often assumed larger companies have the resources for a robust screening process and, therefore, smaller companies with fewer resources are exempt.

The truth is, smaller companies put more emphasis on getting background checks right in the UK. This is because of the financial, legal, and reputational damage that can occur from a bad hire. Some small companies have faced fines of tens of thousands of pounds simply from not having a background check process.

Regardless of your company’s size, you must have background check process in place.

The background process is same for every role

Different roles will require different types of background checks. For example, a transport company will perform regular DVLA checks on their drivers, but not on staff who do not drive on behalf of the company.

You should only perform certain background checks if they are proportionate to the role. Therefore, the background check process varies greatly.

A poor credit rating will disqualify a candidate

Yes, but only within the financial sector or where the employee will handle finances.

A typical pre-employment credit check will determine if your candidate/employee has any County Court Judgements (CCJs), bankruptcies, voluntary arrangements, decrees, or administration orders.

You cannot deny employment or dismiss an employee if they have a bad credit history, except if a good credit history is required for the role (or by law within your sector).

Search engines will tell me everything I need to know

This is simply not true, as most information is only available on a ‘need to know’ basis (e.g. a DBS check, DVLA check, etc) and not publicly available.

It is recommended that you use background check/screening software. Employment Check Pro provides a robust, fast, and automated employment background check platform for organisations of all sizes.

Not only is Pro GDPR-compliant, but it also assists with automatic referencing, scheduling of checks (e.g. DVLA every six months), and provides instant DBS checks. All of this, plus hundreds of other features.

Pro is suitable for all sectors, requirements, and checks. And as an ISO27001-accredited organisation, we perform regular internal audits to ensure our information security framework (and software) is strong.

To book a demo or learn more, please visit /pro/ or fill out the form below:


    EBC Global are a background check, onboarding, and vetting software company based in the UK. For regular updates, please follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter

    Join Our Community for Exclusive Updates!

    Stay informed about the latest industry trends, news, and special offers. Subscribe to our newsletter for exclusive content and promotions. Be the first to know—sign up now!

    This will close in 0 seconds