Law guide: Workplace

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Pre-employment checks

Pre-employment checks

Contents

When you start a new job, your employer may wish to carry out a number of checks to see if you're suitable - but you have certain rights during this process. The types of checks an employer carries out will depend on the job. In all cases you should read the terms of the checks carefully to ensure you're satisfied with your new employer's data protection policy.

What your employer will want to see

Identification documents

The documents you need will depend on whether you're a worker, employee or self-employed.

References

To find out more on job references, see our section titled 'References and job offers.'

Background checks

Where a job is security-related, an employer may want to carry out background checks. For a few financial services roles, these may also cover your credit history. The employer should treat all job applicants in the same way during the recruitment process.

Equal opportunities monitoring

An employer also mustn't treat you differently because of your sex, marital status, sexual orientation, race or religion. For example, if you're a woman, you shouldn't be asked if you're planning to have children soon, as this could be used to discriminate in favour of a male applicant.

Health checks

You may have to have a health check if it's a legal requirement of the job (for example, having an eye test for a job as a driver). You should be told about any health checks in your offer letter.

Your employer may ask for a medical report, but if they want one, they must have policies for keeping it secure.

If you're disabled, your disability shouldn't be used as a reason for singling you out for a health test without good reason. If you are, and you don't get the job as a result, you can complain to an Employment Tribunal (or Industrial Tribunal in Northern Ireland). It's unlawful to treat disabled people less favourably because of their disability. This doesn't mean that it will always be unlawful for an employer to ask a disabled person to have a health check, even if other candidates are not asked. It will depend on the nature of your disability and the needs of the job.

In England, Wales and Scotland, the Equality Act 2010 outlaws asking questions relating to health or disability and the use of health questionnaires before a job offer is made, unless doing so in order to:

  • Determine whether any reasonable adjustments need to be made for an applicant during a recruitment process
  • Determine whether an applicant can undertake a function that is vital ('intrinsic') to the job, such as enquiring about any mobility issues where the job entails handling heavy goods
  • Monitor diversity amongst the applicants, such as enquiring whether an applicant is disabled in order to establish whether advertisements are reaching disabled people
  • Take positive action to assist disabled people
  • Establish that the applicant has a disability where having a disability is an occupational requirement of the job

The Equality Act permits employers to make any offer of employment conditional upon receiving a satisfactory medical report/health questionnaire. Questions asking the applicant to disclose details of past health may not be acceptable under the Equality Act.

Checking qualifications

If you need particular qualifications, training or licences for a job, your employer may ask for proof that you have them. They should let you know if they're carrying out these checks and if they intend to keep copies of any relevant documents on file.

Criminal records

Some employers will want to check whether you have a criminal record. You will have to disclose any convictions if you're applying for a job:

  • as an accountant or barrister
  • in the police
  • working with children or vulnerable adults
  • relating to the administration of justice or financial regulation

However, in England & Wales, there are some types of conviction that you won't have to reveal – see this government guide (PDF) for more information.

Employers must be registered with the Disclosure and Barring Service (formerly the Criminal Records Bureau) to carry out the check. Such checks incur fees and the employer can ask you to meet the cost.

See the Gov.uk website for more information.

Withdrawing a job offer

An employer can withdraw a job offer even after you've accepted it if any check on you has produced unsatisfactory results, so long as you were made aware before you accepted the job that the offer was conditional on the checks.

Where to get help

For England, Wales and Scotland the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) offers free, confidential and impartial advice on all employment rights issues.

For Northern Ireland, the Labour Relations Agency (LRA) offers free, confidential and impartial advice on all employment rights issues.