As an employer, you may have to carry out certain pre-employment checks before making an unconditional job offer to a potential new employee.
Some checks will ascertain suitability for the job, for example, checking a candidate’s qualifications or asking for a reference, but some are a legal requirement, such as ensuring that the candidate is entitled to work and remain in the UK. Any job offers that are made can be done so on a conditional basis, depending on the outcome of the checks. A conditional offer is not binding until both parties have agreed to the terms, and the offer can be withdrawn if the conditions specified are not met.
The first pre-employment check should be to confirm the identity of the candidate. You can do this by requesting original copies of documents such as a passport, driving licence or birth certificate. Commercial companies offer online database checking services for a fee. The Identity and Passport Service has introduced a number of measures to assist employers in verifying the identity of employees.
Before checking a reference, you should ensure that you have the permission of the potential employee, as some may not wish you to request a reference from their current employer until a job offer has been made.
It may be necessary to check the qualifications of a candidate, especially if they are essential to the job, for example, if it is vital that the employee holds a relevant practising certificate. You should ask to see the certificates, or alternatively, checks can be made with the awarding bodies.
An employer should only ask about a potential employee’s disability or health before a job offer is made if they will be required to attend for an interview or selection test, and if reasonable adjustments are necessary for this, or to ask whether the employee will be physically able to meet the demands of the job.
Pre-employment health checks should only be carried out after an offer has been made, and where any candidate would be required to undergo the testing to determine fitness for the job, or where it is necessary to fulfil a legal requirement. If health checks are required, they should be carried out on all candidates to avoid unfair discrimination. Written consent must be obtained from the candidate before requests for medical reports are made. If the offer is conditional upon fitness for work, this must be specified in the offer letter.
CRB checks are usually required when people will be working with children or vulnerable adults. Again, a CRB check should not be made until a job offer is made, and it should be made clear that the offer is conditional upon the checks. A standard check will be made to ascertain any spent/unspent convictions, cautions, warnings or reprimands. An enhanced check must be made if the candidate will be working with vulnerable groups.
A conditional offer can be withdrawn if the checking discloses something that makes the person unsuitable for the job. Employment may also be offered subject to a probationary period, so if this is withdrawn, employers should ensure that any notice period is complied with. Employers should explain clearly why the offer is being withdrawn to protect against any potential legal claims, such as a claim for discrimination.
For more information, contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau. Further guidance can be found on www.nidirect.gov.uk or by contacting the Labour Relations Agency on 02809032 1442.
Sian Fisher is an Information Officer with Citizens Advice.