Understanding Criminal Record Checks

Posted in : HR Updates on 18 August 2021
Laura Gillespie
Think People Consulting
Issues covered: Criminal Record Checks; Pre-employment Checks

Access NI is the system used in Northern Ireland to carry out criminal record checks. The system is complex and includes three different levels of checks: Basic, Standard and Enhanced. It is a criminal offense to require candidates and staff to undergo a criminal record check in which they are not eligible for. Therefore, careful consideration and assessments need to be carried out before determining the level of check you require for your Organisation and job roles.

Think People are a Registered, Responsible Umbrella Body, which means we can carry out criminal record checks on candidates and staff on behalf of employers.

For ease, we have included a summary of the checks below:

Types of checks

1. Basic Access NI Check

A Basic Access NI Check will show all unspent convictions or will state that no convictions were found. Employers can ask candidates to undergo this check, provided they have a reasonable rationale to do so.

2. Standard Access NI Check

A Standard Access NI Check discloses an individual’s criminal record, including spent and unspent convictions, informed warnings and other non-court disposals from the Police National Computer.

The position must be exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders (Exceptions Order) (NI) 1979 to require candidates to undergo a Standard Check.

3. Enhanced Access NI Check

An Enhanced Access NI check discloses an individual’s full criminal record, including:

  • spent and unspent convictions,
  • cautions,
  • informed warnings and
  • other non-court disposals from the Police National Computer information held by the Disclosure and Barring Service (for positions in regulated activity)
  • information held by the police that is relevant to the role.

These checks are normally required where an individual works or volunteers in a role providing services to or having close and regular supervision of children or vulnerable adults.  

Enhanced checks are complicated and include two variations of checks: with or without a barred list check. Employers need to meet strict criteria and carry out tests to determine applicant and staff members’ eligibility.

What happens if an Access NI check does not come back clear?

Access NI checks are typically a pre-employment check. Having a criminal record may not prevent the organisation from hiring the applicant, this will always depend on the nature of the position, together with the circumstances and background of the candidates’ offences or other information contained on a disclosure certificate and a risk assessment.

There are times in which current staff may be requested to undergo a check, if a check is unclear, the same steps as outlined above should be followed alongside the organisation’s internal polices and statutory obligations.

In any case, employers must adhere to Part V of the Police Act 1997.

Think People can provide a service to carry out criminal record checks on candidates and staff on behalf of employers.  If you would like to find out more about this service, please contact laura.gillespie@thinkpeople.co.uk, or +4428 9031 0450.  

Annual Review of Employment Law 2021

Laura's colleague, and Think People Managing Partner, Emer Hinphey, will be speaking at our flagship Annual Review of Employment Law conference on the 10 & 11 November 2021.

Emer chairs our roundtable discussion 'Philosophically Speaking, You’re Sacked.' 

Our panel features experts in employment equality law, including the lawyer for Maya Forstater, a woman who successfully argued at the EAT that her philosophical belief (that the sex you are born with is immutable) is a protected characteristic. This belief had brought her into conflict with her employer, who argued her views were transphobic, and they had a statutory duty to protect trans people and project an image of inclusivity. So, what should an employer do when faced with a conflict of beliefs and protected characteristics in the workplace? You can find out what the panel think on the 10 November!

This article is correct at 18/08/2021

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Laura Gillespie
Think People Consulting

The main content of this article was provided by Laura Gillespie. Contact telephone number is 028 9031 0450 or email Laura.gillespie@thinkpeople.co.uk

View all articles by Laura Gillespie