New guidelines on mental health disclosure for background job checks

Employers need not always be told that a job applicant has been detained under the Mental Health Act, according to new government guidance aimed at combating the stigma around mental illness.

Police will be required to examine issues such as a person’s behaviour during the episode when assessing whether detention under the Act should be included on criminal record certificates.

Such certificates are included in an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check – required for certain jobs or voluntary positions involving children or vulnerable people.

Police chiefs will be urged to act with “great caution” around disclosures of a person’s detention history, amid concerns that information relating to applicants’ mental health history has often been disclosed when it is not “relevant or proportionate” to their suitability for a role.

Home Office minister Karen Bradley said the guidelines aim to make the system fairer without lessening protection.

“It is important that checks provide employers with the information they need to protect children and vulnerable groups,” she said.

“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.”

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said: “We welcome this revised guidance as it’s an issue we have been concerned about for some time.

“The nature of the current process means that people who are perfectly able to do a job may be unnecessarily excluded because of a lack of clarity about what should and shouldn’t be disclosed.

“There is no reason why having a mental health problem or having been previously detained under the Mental Health Act should necessarily be a red flag when it comes to DBS checks.”

The new guidance also states that the date of the mental ill health episode is an “important” factor. In cases where it took place a long time ago, officers are now advised to consider giving the applicant an opportunity to make representations about their current state of health.

Community and social care minister Alistair Burt said the changes will help prevent people being “stigmatised” as they attempt to find work or volunteering opportunities.

He said: “Having a mental 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 has had a mental health crisis.”

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