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Offering the job and post-offer checks

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Once you have decided on the appropriate candidate, you will need to send a provisional offer of employment letter and conduct pre-employment checks. These steps are outlined below.

The conditional offer

You should make a written offer of employment subject to satisfactory completion of pre-employment checks:

  • References
  • Right to work in the UK
  • Health check
  • Qualifications check
  • DBS check (where needed).

Download an example job offer letter from the Acas website.


You should always follow up references from previous employers. You should not contact the present employer until the applicant has given you permission to do so.

If there is only one previous employer, or none, you should seek academic references in preference to personal references.

References should be used to support or deny the information gained about an applicant, not to choose between applicants.

A reference request can cover the following areas:

  • Name of applicant
  • Post applied for
  • Who the reference is from, who it needs to be returned to and by when
  • The identity of the referee and in what capacity they have worked with the applicant
  • A request for confirmation of the role, the duties the applicant undertook with the referee, the dates of employment
  • The reason for leaving (where applicable)
  • Whether there are any live disciplinary warnings on file
  • A request for comments on the applicant’s reliability, trustworthiness, attendance, performance in the job and relationships with others
  • A request that the referee give any other information that they feel may be useful.

Someone named as a referee by an applicant is not under any legal obligation to provide a reference. An increasing number of organisations have a policy of providing ‘bare minimum’ references comprising dates of employment, job title and salary on leaving. However, a person who does provide a reference is under a legal obligation to ensure that the information given is accurate and truthful.

If a reference does not provide straightforward information in response to the initial request, you might want to follow up with a telephone conversation, if the referee is willing to do so. Make notes of the telephone conversation for future reference.

If a conditional job offer is made, it can be withdrawn if the references are unsatisfactory

Consider references in an impartial manner and be aware that on occasions, the referee may not be impartial - an applicant may have experienced prejudice or an unreasonable manager in a previous organisation.

Referencing since the GDPR

Providing a reference will inevitably involve processing personal data under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The job applicant’s current employer may be wary of providing a reference unless the employee has provided their consent. You may therefore find it helpful, when seeking references, to provide referees with a copy of a signed consent from the job applicant, stating that they agree to a reference being provided.

You can find further information about referencing from the Acas guidance on job referencing.

Please note that under a specific exemption in the Act, a worker does not have the right to gain access to a confidential job reference from the organisation which has given it. However, once the reference is with the organisation to which it was sent then no such specific exemption from the right of access exists. That organisation is though entitled to take steps to protect the identity of third parties such as the author of the reference. For further information, see the Information Commissioner’s Office

Checking the right to work in the UK

Under the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006you are under a legal obligation to undertake ‘right to work’ checks on anyone you propose to employ. You could face a civil penalty if you employ an illegal worker and haven’t carried out a correct right to work check.

You should undertake the checks on everyone you propose to employ. It isn’t appropriate, for example, to only check the status of people who you consider may not be entitled to work in the UK, because of their accent or ethnic origin. Such assumptions are inappropriate and could imply race discrimination.

The process you need to go through involves checking, copying and retaining one, or a specified combination, of original documents before employment commences.

You can find out what documents are required at GOV.UK.

With effect from 8 January 2019, organisations can rely solely on an online service to carry out right to work checks, without receiving any documents from the individual. This is the case only where an individual has a ‘share code’, in which case you can undertake the online check here. A share code may be issued, for example, when an individual has a biometric residence permit or is an EU citizen who has ‘settled status.’ Individuals with a UK passport will not normally have a share code.

The right to work in the UK and Brexit

There is no immediate change to checking the right to work in the UK for EU or other citizens, since Brexit occurred on 1 January 2020.

EU citizens who are already in the UK or arrive before 1 January 2021 can continue to work without needing to show settlement status until 1 July 2021. You are however advised to encourage your EU citizens to apply for settled status or pre-settled status, see the guidance on GOV.UK.

The Government plans to introduce a new immigration system in 2021 and further information will be provided about this system at the time.

Criminal record checks via the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)

A DBS check is a process for gathering information about an applicant’s criminal history and is an important part in safeguarding. It helps organisations make safer recruitment decisions and prevents unsuitable people from working with vulnerable groups.

Levels of disclosure

There are three levels of disclosure:

  • Basic Disclosures
  • Standard Disclosures
  • Enhanced Disclosures

For some posts, you must seek a Standard DisclosureEnhanced Disclosure or Enhanced Disclosure with children’s and/or adults’ barred list check. Such checks can only be sought for posts that are exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 – it is a criminal offence to do otherwise. Applications must be made by the employer directly if they are a registered body, or through an umbrella body. This is subject to the applicant’s consent. The disclosure certificate is then sent directly to the applicant who must then hand it to the prospective employer.

For initial information on the circumstances in which you should seek a Standard or Enhanced Disclosure, see the Nacro/CIPD guidance. You can also contact Nacro’s Employer Advice Service on 0845 600 3194, , or visit the Nacro website.

If a Standard or Enhanced DBS check is not permitted for the post to which you are recruiting, a Basic Disclosure can be sought by the applicant or the prospective employer (with the applicant’s agreement). Basic Disclosures can be carried out for most roles. You do not need to seek a Basic Disclosure, but you can if you wish (and with the individual’s agreement). They contain details of ‘unspent’ cautions or convictions.

Under the Data Protection Act 2018, you can undertake basic checks where it is ‘necessary for the purposes of performing or exercising employment law obligations or rights’. You therefore need to be able to demonstrate the necessity of carrying out the checks and identify the lawful basis under which the checks will be carried out.

Any employer that is collecting and processing criminal record data as part of their recruitment process must include within their privacy policy the purpose of collecting this data, the retention period and who information will be shared with. A copy of the policy should be given to the job applicant at the time the information is collected.

Please note that conducting a background check by requiring the employee to take out a ‘subject access request’ as a condition of employment is a criminal offence under the Data Protection Act 1998.

For further information, advice or support, contact the DBS on 03000 200 190 or via .

It is good practice to have a positive attitude to ex-offenders and to only take offences into account if they are relevant to the job. The above Nacro/CIPD guide provides information on employing ex-offenders.

Health check

Section 60(1) of the Equality Act 2010 generally prohibits employers from asking applicants questions about their health before a job offer is made. However, after the job offer, you may ask proportionate questions in respect of:

  • whether the employee has any health conditions or disability which may impact on their ability to do the role
  • what reasonable adjustments they may wish to request, to enable them to undertake the role.

You are advised to ask such questions in writing and to seek a written response.

Confirming the offer

Once all checks are completed, you will be able to confirm the offer of employment and the employee can start work. If you have not already done so, you will need to provide two copies of the written statement of terms and conditions of employment, for each party to sign and for each party to then retain one copy. The written statement must be provided on or before the first day of work. You will also need to provide a copy of your workforce privacy notice, or let the new employee know where they can easily access it.

Further resources

Page last edited Apr 07, 2022

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