Completing Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks

Completing Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks

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Completing Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks

The following section provides advice on how to overcome a common barrier faced by refugees: completing Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks. Although practical tips and suggestions have been included, it is important to note that everyone’s circumstances differ and therefore there is a need for an individual approach to each case. 

There is no legal requirement for anyone to obtain DBS checks, however, employers are legally obliged to ensure that any staff member working in a regulated activity with children or vulnerable adults have not been barred from doing so. For guidance information about regulated activities and more, visit Disclosure Services Resource Hub

DBS process involves very specific documentation which many refugees might not be able to provide, given the circumstances of their arrival to the UK and the fact that they haven’t been living in the country for 5 years. Certain roles will always require either standard or enhanced DBS check (especially jobs that include working with children and vulnerable adults). However, in many cases, it is up to the employer to decide whether a DBS check is needed and whether there are any support measures that could be put in place to enable work for those who cannot obtain this certification.  

In general, there are three types of DBS checks: 

Basic DBS Checks

Unless an employee will work with children or vulnerable adults or will be in a position of influence (such as in the legal or financial sectors), there is no real need for this type of check, and it is completely the employer’s decision to determine whether they would like to request it or not. 

Standard DBS Checks

Usually applies to positions of influence (legal or financial sectors) as well as security roles.  

Enhanced DBS Checks (with or without barred list information)

Applies to teachers, social workers, medical professionals and taxi drivers – anyone who might be working with children or vulnerable adults. 

If the candidate has been residing in the UK for less than 5 years, an employer will ask them for a certificate of good conduct (also known as certificate of good standing). This is a document from an overseas authority that confirms a part or all of their criminal record history. You can find contact details for each country’s official authority that’s responsible for producing such document at the Home Office guidance page.  

Very often, refugees can’t obtain a certificate of good conduct from their country’s official sources (for example due to political reasons). In such instance, an employer could accept alternative documents such as a sworn oath and character reference. Security Industry Authority and Civil Aviation authority are examples of two UK bodies that accept such documents when applicants can’t provide an overseas criminal record check.  

Another option is to ask the employer to consider providing a self-declaration form for the candidate. This could serve as an additional form of check and be used alongside the risk assessment as well as character references.  

As different industries might follow different guidance and recommendations, the one size fits all rule don’t apply, and it is important to consider alternative ways of ensuring that robust checks have been met. With the talent pool getting smaller and smaller, businesses have a big part to play in removing unnecessary barriers and creating processes that can enable inclusive recruitment (for example considering individual's values and behaviours to prove their suitability) whilst ensuring the right safety checks are in place. Alternative and additional safety measures could include: 

  • Supervising the work of a new employee for the first few months 
  • Extending the probation period     
  • A sworn oath 
  • A character references 
  • No criminal record self-declaration form


The Medical Support Worker scheme (introduced by NHS England in 2020) allows refugee doctors who are progressing towards their full medical registration in the UK to work under supervision and help with patient care and other clinical tasks.

While the sworn oath can be acquired from a local solicitor, the character reference can be obtained from many sources including: 

  • UK Refugee support worker 
  • UK Asylum caseworker  
  • UK Social worker 
  • Teacher / Lecturer 
  • The local church / community leader 
  • Dentist 
  • Doctor 
  • Supervisor / manager from a volunteering group  
Last updated: 5th January 2023

Contact us about employer engagement

For more information or to discuss getting involved, contact:

Ewa Lelontko - Employer Engagement Manager