Contractors, DBS checks will cost LESS from April 6th

In the face of a Spring Statement 2022 that isn’t helpful to contractors, and costs increasing almost everywhere, a tariff update from the Disclosure and Barring Service will be welcome, because DBS checks are going to get cheaper, writes Better Hiring Institute chair Keith Rosser, a director of Reed Screening.

In fact, on March 16th 2022, parliament approved a motion to reduce the fees for Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS) checks, and these are checks commonly carried out by employers and recruiters on new hires, including agency staff and contractors. 

Refresher: what is a DBS check?

DBS checks are more common than you might think. A DBS check (previously and still sometimes known as a CRB, or criminal record check), accesses the criminal record history of job-applicants and workers who are registering with a recruitment agency or starting a new assignment. These checks are conducted across a range of employers and sectors, with volumes of more than TWO MILLION a year, equating to nearly 10% of the workforce. 

There are the obvious sectors when it comes to DBS checks, such as healthcare and education. But increasingly, non-clinical and non-teaching roles in hospitals, colleges, and schools, extending to their IT departments, are within scope of a DBS check, mainly due to the candidate’s opportunity to interact with vulnerable individuals.

Basic; Standard? That'll be £18; £38, please

Basic DBS checks are even more widespread, especially in financial services and logistics where they are often used by hirers as a way of preventing potential fraud. Many of these roles and sectors are understandably, highly attractive to contractors.

So what’s the new tariff? Following a review by the service, both Basic and Standard DBS check will reduce in price by £5.00 (to £18.00), and both types of Enhanced checks (for roles working with the vulnerable) will reduce by £2.00 (to £38.00). Positively, these reductions are not months and months away -- like the chancellor’s 1p income tax cut, but next Wednesday. So arguably, these price cuts by the service are better news for contractors than the Spring Statement, as DBS checks get cheaper from April 6th 2022!

Who pays?

The cost of DBS checks can be covered by the hirer, but often, they are covered by the contractor. Technically, it’s a grey area. This is partly because the regulator says hirers cannot charge for additional services mandatory for a role, but in many cases it’s accepted that a DBS check is not mandatory, so often contractors shoulder the costs. Remember though, the regulator does specify that contractors should not bear more than a small administrative fee on top of the DBS charge. This is an important point for contractors to be aware of, and excessive charges are reportable to the regulator.

With the charges of DBS checks currently (pre-April 6th) standing at £23 for Basic and £40 for Enhanced, this specification by the regulator means contractors should not be paying more than £35 and £52, respectively, realistically.

DBS guidance for contractors

It is important to note that some hirers do not charge at all. And it’s important to note that if contractors feel the charge is too high, they can complain directly to the regulator (the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate).

Of course, contractors who don't like the prospect of DBS charges just to be able to start work, can theoretically work only for hirers that do not charge. But realistically, workers go where the work is! Hard-up candidates are of course free to ask the hirer to remove the cost from future pay, as a way of spreading the cost. Many end-clients will be happy to do this.

Also, contractors please be on guard for DBS scams. To help guard against them, the DBS ran a campaign with JobsAware before Christmas 2021, specifically to help know when a DBS request is fake. Essentially, this is where a fraudster gives the illusion of offering a candidate or job-seeker an opportunity with the requirement of undergoing a DBS check, which is actually just a form to steal money from contractors!

Remember, getting asked to hand over money upfront; to pay expensive DBS check fees, or to hand over personal information such as bank details before a job offer is made, can all be signs of a scam. Steer clear and use the official DBS eligibility tool to determine the type of DBS check you may be eligible for.

Final thought

In the current climate, where all costs seem to be increasing -- from energy bills to food prices, the fee reduction from the DBS is a rare, welcome reduction. Given the Office for Budget Responsibility is warning of the greatest hit on living standards since records began in the 1950s, it is refreshing that despite being small, these costs are going in the other direction.

Profile picture for user Keith Rosser

Written by Keith Rosser

Keith Rosser is a labour market expert with almost 20 years working in hiring. Currently a Group Director at Reed, the UK's largest family-owned recruitment business, and Chair of 2 joint UK government and industry bodies: the Better Hiring Institute and JobsAware.
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