Disclosure Certificates for Working At Home

If you’re trying to get to grips with remote working, you’re not alone. Over the last few weeks, millions have taken home a laptop and are trying to work in a corner of the kitchen or a bedroom. Coronavirus has seen the number of homeworkers rocket, but this was already an established trend. Over the last decade, more employers have embraced the concept of flexible working. Working from home a day or two a week, or on a permanent basis, isn’t so unusual. There are of course advantages and disadvantages to this work model. For every person who thrives at home, there’s another who can’t wait to get back into the office. One of the main areas of confusion around remote working is the “rules” and what’s allowed and not allowed. This is especially the case when it comes to disclosure certificates and right to work checks.

Disclosure Certificates – Role and not Location

There’s been a lot of talk recently about laws changing about disclosure checks and certificates. It’s certainly true that the Disclosure and Barring Service have introduced new, quicker ways of getting certificates for people who want to work in the NHS or care sector. However, the general principles about how to apply for a DBS check remain unchanged. Basic disclosure checks are the only type of checks which everyone and anyone can apply for. This level of check is a confirmation of your current and unspent criminal record only. This type of certificate won’t show older offences which are spent under rehabilitation law.

Other types of disclosure checks, either standard or enhanced, can only be obtained in connection with specific types of jobs. Where you perform that job isn’t the critical factor. It’s all about the type of work you will be doing, and whether or not it falls under the definition of regulated work. For example, a senior finance manager who is responsible for lots of people’s bank accounts will usually need a standard disclosure check. That applies whether they work from a desk in a home office, or a desk in the company’s premises. It is the responsibility of the employer, not the individual, to know who needs a DBS check and at what level.

Self-Employed Remote Workers

At times when we’re not in a pandemic, many people who work from home are self-employed or freelance workers. They take on work as and when it suits them, work for a range of clients, or offer a particular service or skill. This group includes everyone from cleaners and hairdressers through to graphic designers or architects. Again, whether or not they need a DBS certificate will depend on the type of work they are doing.

Some self-employed workers will be able to get a disclosure certificate through a professional body or organisation. For example, a physiotherapist who sees patients in their converted spare room is still registered through their professional body. They will be able to get an enhanced disclosure in exactly the same way as a physiotherapist employed by the NHS. Similar rules apply to sports coaches or other groups working with children. There is lots of information online about who needs a disclosure certificate, and routes for applying.

Is it still worth applying for disclosure certificates?

The Disclosure and Barring Service, and the similar bodies in Scotland and Northern Ireland, are still open during the coronavirus lockdown. However, they are struggling with the same issues as other employers. Staff are off sick, or are part of vulnerable groups who have been told by the government to stay at home. Also, DBS applications from NHS and care workers are being given priority over all other applications. This policy is obviously sensible. The impact for everyone else though is that delays are inevitable.

Some people will be able to start work without a DBS certificate. Alternatively, there may be other ways to reassure clients that they can be trusted for the services they offer. The application process remains unchanged, with some more flexibility around being able to prove identity online rather than in person. Consider whether at this point it is worth signing up for the DBS Update service, which lets you access an online database. Real-time access to your information could make life a lot easier should something like this happen again in the future.


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