No matter how rigorous the interview process, you can never really know how a prospective employee will work out and how well they fit in your organisation.

They may have dazzled you throughout the recruitment stage, but can they impress you in the long run?

Of course, you want to make the most informed recruitment decision possible, so you may offer an individual a conditional job offer, which can be withdrawn if the applicant does not fulfil all the conditions of the offer.

In this article, we highlight five key pre-employment checks that may be required by law, necessary for your sector or simply useful to carry out.

1  Right to work in UK

By law, employers have a legal requirement to ask and check that an employee has the right to work in the UK. Employers should take this obligation seriously – you can be fined up to £20,000 if you cannot demonstrate that you checked an employee’s right to work in the UK!

It is easy to fall into the trap of making assumptions or thinking that a check is necessary or not necessary due to the person’s accent, ethnic origin or the time they have lived in the UK. The problem is that this can lead to discrimination claims. The best way to avoid this common pitfall is to carry out right to work checks on everyone.

2  References

In some highly regulated sectors, such as financial services, a reference is required to conduct certain functions. However, in most cases, there is no such obligation and you can choose whether or not to seek a reference from a previous or current employer. Some references are short and factual, whilst others may be fuller and more comprehensive. In any case, they may be of value to assess someone’s suitability for the role.  If you are unsure of how best to proceed, a free consultation with an employment law company will help direct you to the correct procedure.

3  Health checks

In some cases, it may be a legal requirement to ask for a health check, for example, an eye test if someone is working as a driver.

In other cases, an employer may wish to obtain a medical report about a prospective employee to see if they have a health issue or physical disability that affects their ability to do the job. To do this, you must comply with the strict conditions laid down in the Access to Medical Reports Act 1988. The prospective applicant has the right to refuse their consent, say yes to the application, or agree to the application but ask to see the report prior to it being sent to you.

The law is also very strict on asking health or disability questions during the recruitment process. As a general principle, it is not permissible for an employer to ask a job applicant any questions about their health or disability until they have been offered a job.

Withdrawing a conditional job offer simply because the medical check shows the applicant has a disability is likely to constitute direct discrimination. If these pre-employment checks do reveal that they are disabled, you have an obligation to consider what reasonable adjustments are necessary as an employer’s failure to abide by a duty to make reasonable adjustments is also a type of discrimination. This demonstrates how important it is to speak to an employment law specialist before making any decision to ensure you are compliant when it comes to pre-employment checks.

4  DBS checks

An employer or an organisation engaging volunteers may request a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check to find out someone’s criminal record when assessing their suitability for positions of trust. For employers in certain sectors, such as education, social work and healthcare, this is critical to prevent unsuitable people working with children, young people and vulnerable adults.

In any case, you will need to establish whether a role is eligible for a DBS check before submitting an application. There are different types of criminal records checks, including:


This will look to see if the applicant has any spent or unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands or final warnings from the police.


As well as the information provided in standard checks, enhanced checks also look to see if there is any further information held by the local police force that is pertinent to the role being applied for.

Enhanced with list checks

This goes beyond enhanced check and looks at barred lists – those individuals who are not suitable for working with children or adults.

 5  Qualification check

In some professions, it is imperative that the prospective employee have specific qualifications to their job. You must therefore you must check original copies of all certificates provided.

Call Ellis Whittam’s HR team today for more information on the pre-employment checks required for your sector and/or desirable for your organisation.


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