Working with vulnerable people: safeguarding requirements

It’s essential that employers can identify candidates who are unsuitable to work with vulnerable adults and children.

And the government – through the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) – aims to provide an effective and secure way to help employers make safe recruitment decisions by checking criminal records and providing barring functions.

Criminal record checking allows employers to access the criminal record history of people working, or seeking to work, in areas like social care, the NHS, the prison service or in schools.

Individuals who have harmed or pose a risk of harm to vulnerable groups, including children, can be placed on barred lists and prevented by law from working with these groups.

The DBS was established under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 and carries out the functions of the merged Independent Safeguarding Authority and the Criminal Records Bureau.

The Act brought vetting and barring regulations in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in line with those in Scotland, although there are some differences in obtaining the checks between each country.

It’s important that employers are aware that they can only ask for a barred list check for specific roles and must not apply for a check unless the job or role is eligible for one. They must tell the applicant why they’re being checked and where they can get independent advice.

Employers who dismiss someone because they have harmed a child or vulnerable adult, might have harmed a child or vulnerable adult, or who resigned before dismissal, have a legal duty to inform the DBS.

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It is now a criminal offence under the Data Protection Act for employers to ask applicants or existing employees to make a data protection subject access record to get hold of their full criminal record.

Top tips: getting employees involved

Getting employees engaged with health and safety can be an uphill struggle but there are measures that will help:

segment your audience – workers permanently based in the office won’t need to know about site procedures except in the most exceptional circumstances, in which case brief them individually; segmentation also allows your supervisors to give extra briefings to the people most likely to need it

trust your work force to work responsibly – autonomy leads to engagement

the more input your workers have in procedures, the more likely they are to understand and follow them.