In November, we highlighted the pending changes to staff vetting checks (November e-briefing). These changes have now been confirmed as coming into effect on 10 March 2015.

The changes arise upon implementation of a previously dormant provision of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). In an employment context, section 56 of the DPA will now make it an offence for employers to require a prospective employee to apply to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), by way of a personal subject access request, and then to disclose the search results. Such practice is referred to as making an “enforced subject access request” and has historically enabled some employers to obtain extensive information regarding the criminal records of employees, job applicants or contractors, including any spent convictions, which they would not otherwise be able to obtain.

Although the implementation of this provision does not change the existing mechanism for seeking criminal record checks in the UK, such as by the DBS, it may impact upon some organisations current practices. Organisations may therefore need to review their approach to obtaining criminal and other relevant data to avoid the risk of committing a criminal offence when checking and vetting candidates, employees and contractors.