The Home Office is to supply new guidance to the police on the factors that must be considered before a person’s mental health history is disclosed to potential employers.

The outlines issued in August cover Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks and employee rights to confidentiality in the job application process.

DBS checks, formerly known as CRB checks, look into a person’s criminal record to ensure that someone is suitable to work with children or vulnerable adults.

Police must approach the checks with great caution, only disclosing information that is “relevant and proportionate” to a person’s suitability for the role amid concerns that employment prospects are being unfairly effected.

The frameworks advise that:

(a) Detention under the Mental Health Act which doesn’t amount to a criminal investigation is unlikely to justify disclosure.

(b) The behaviour of the individual throughout the incident must be taken into account, for example assessing whether the person was at risk of harming others or was involved in numerous incidents.

(c) The date of the mental health episode must be considered. In instances where it took place a long time ago, the applicant should be asked to make reasonable representations about their current mental state.

(d) Disclosure certificates should explain the relevance of the information to the application to the employer involved.

Home Office minister Karen Bradley told the BBC: “it is important that checks provide employers with the information they need to protect children and vulnerable groups.”

“At the same time, police disclosure of information relating to mental ill health can have a significant impact on the lives of those concerned, including their employment opportunities.”

The new guidance has been welcomed by mental health charities who have often had concerns about DBS disclosures and their impact on individuals.

Community and social care minister Alistair Burt said: “having a mental health illness is not a crime – your medical history wouldn’t be flagged to your employer, so it’s right that we make the same true for someone who’s had a mental health crises.”

Some employment rights can be protected on application for a role as well as during employment. Beecham Peacock can advise on any aspect of employment law. For further information call us on 0191 232 3048 or email

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