Pre-Employment Checks – An Employers Guide

pre-employment checks-tick boxes

Pre-employment checks are a very important part of the recruitment process. They assist you to ensure you recruit the right person for a role.

No matter how rigorous the interview process, you never really know how a potential employee will work out. You want to make the most informed recruitment decision possible and pre-employment checks allow you to verify :

  • Their legal right to work in the UK
  • If a candidate is suitable based on references
  • That they are physically/mentally able to carry out the work
  • If there are any known medical or disability factors and if you can reasonably accommodate adaptations
  • That there are no safeguarding or relevant criminal record concerns
  • That they have the qualifications and skills they say they do

Making Conditional Offers

It is advisable to provide a conditional job offer subject to receiving satisfactory pre-employment clearance.  

If pre-employment checks highlight any potential concerns, you can clarify information as needed.

If you remain concerned you can withdraw the employment offer.

When should you conduct pre-employment checks?

Checks should take place after interviews and only for the candidate(s) who are potentially suitable based on initial assessment.  This saves you both time and potential expense.

They can be requested for several candidates before any offers are made and assist you to decide which potential candidate to offer the role to.

It is more common to do checks for your preferred candidate after the job offer has been made (see conditional offers above). This means you have only 1 candidate to check.

Pre-employment Medical questionnaires

The exception to this is pre-employment medical questionnaires. You must not ask for health, medical or disability-related information before making an offer of employment.  

Offer Letters

Offer letters should clearly state that the offer:

  • is conditional / subject to meeting satisfactory pre-employment checks
  • may be withdrawn if satisfactory clearance is not received.
  • suggest provisional start date, which may need to change if checks are delayed

Both written and verbal offers are legally binding. Ensure any conversations also cover these points!

What pre-employment checks should I carry out?

There are 5 key pre-employment checks to carry out:

1. Right to work in the UK

Employers are legally obliged to confirm an employee has the right to work in the UK.

If you can’t demonstrate you checked someone’s eligibility to work in the UK, you could be fined up to £20,000.

To avoid potential discrimination claims, carry out right to work checks on everyone.

2. References

Each business will have different policies and procedures for obtaining references.

In some highly regulated sectors, like financial services or working with children or vulnerable adults, references are essential for certain functions. However, in most cases, there is no such obligation.

If no obligation, you can choose whether to seek a reference from a previous or current employer.

Some employment references are short and factual, whilst others may be more comprehensive. Either may be of value to assess someone’s suitability for the role.

3. Health Checks

A pre-employment health check may be legally required for some roles. For instance, an eye test may be required if someone is working as a driver.

Ask prospective employees to complete a pre-employment medical questionnaire. If required, refer the applicant for Occupational Health assessment. This will clarify any physical or mental health issue or disability factor which could affect their ability to do the job.

The law is very strict on asking health or disability questions when recruiting. You shouldn’t ask a job applicant about their health or disability until after a job offer.

If pre-employment health checks highlight any concerns, you must consider any reasonable adjustments. Failure to make reasonable adjustments may later result in disability discrimination claims.

4. DBS Checks – (Disclosure and Barring Service)

Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks allow you to confirm if an individual has a criminal record.

You will need to establish whether a role is eligible for a DBS check before submitting an application.

DBS checks are essential for certain sectors, such as education, social work and healthcare. They are critical for safeguarding purposes.

DBS checks may be justifiable in other sectors where individuals are in a position of trust. Sectors could include legal professions, financial services or veterinarians,

There are different types of criminal records checks, including:

1. Basic DBS checks – to confirm if an applicant has spent or unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands or final warnings from the police.

2. Standard DBS checks – on top of the basic check, these look at further information held by police relevant to the role being applied for.

3. Enhanced DBS checks – this check looks at barred lists to identify if people are unsuited to work with children or vulnerable adults.

A concern identified by a DBS check shouldn’t automatically require you to withdraw a job offer. You should consider the issue, the timescales involved, relevance to the role and the potential future risk. You can discuss any concerns with the prospective employee before deciding.

5. Qualifications / Professional Memberships

Some professions require essential, specific qualifications or memberships relevant to their job.  

If an applicant tells you they hold a particular qualification or membership you may wish to verify this is true.

An employer should ensure they check original copies of all certificates provided.

Withdrawing a conditional job offer

You can legally withdraw a conditional offer if you’re not satisfied with any information, or follow up conversations.

It is strongly advised that notes and reasons for decisions are kept for future reference.

Decisions must be objectively justifiable and not potentially discriminatory. Don’t base decisions on any protective characteristics, which include:

  • Race
  • Gender (i.e. pregnancy-related absence),
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Sexual orientation
  • Religion or philosophical belief

If you need advice on using pre-employment checks in your business, get in touch today. Call Debbie on 07885 370054 or email

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