An employer can check if a potential candidate for a job has a criminal record. This is often referred to as a DBS check which is an abbreviation for a Disclosure and Barring Service check and is done to help the employer assess whether or not you may be suitable for a certain job.
You are able to request a basic check on yourself but no one else, unless you of course, are an employer and the position deems it necessary. Depending on the type of DBS which has been requested, it can show unspent and spent convictions, cautions as well as checking if a person is on a list of barred roles. There are currently several levels of DBS checks that can be done in the UK It may be the case that when you apply for a job, you may be requested to undergo one of these checks and in many industries it is a standard procedure.
This is not a free service but it should be paid for by the employer in most cases and once the certificate arrives in the post, it will be yours to keep. Having A DBS is extremely useful especially if you are applying to work with vulnerable people such as young children, when you will usually have undergone an enhanced DBS check. It has no expiry date but you may be checked again if you apply for another job but official recommendations are that they should be updated every three years. While an employer cannot force you to have a DBS check, if you refuse then it is highly likely that the employer would refuse to give you a job. However, an employer cannot conduct a check on you without your consent as you will need to complete and sign a declaration.
If this is not done then you will not be checked. It is worth taking note that employers are not allowed by law to discriminate against someone on the basis of ‘spent’ convictions and having a criminal record. Furthermore, in many cases will not automatically stop an employer from offering you a job, depending on the role of course. Many jobs do require a clean criminal record and therefore employers may look at each case on an individual basis. It can usually take up to a couple of weeks for the check to come back with the necessary information on it so you shouldn't worry if it seems to be taking a while.
There are various stages that the check needs to go through from start to completion and this is the standard amount of time for whether you have convictions or not. The DBS handles all information in accordance with data protection laws and strict confidentiality with obtained information shared only with authorised parties. It is important to note that eligibility and requirements for DBS checks may vary depending on the nature of the role and the job sector.