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Working and volunteering – being checked for convictions/criminal records

This advice applies to Scotland

On this page you can check what the rules are about employers being able to ask about your criminal records and what checks can be made. You can also find out about the Protecting Vulnerable Groups Scheme (PVG) and what it means to be a member of that scheme. The PVG scheme is provided for checks to be made about lots of jobs and volunteering activities that bring you in close proximity to children and vulnerable adults. It is not always clear whether you should join or not so an Appendix is provided here for you to check the situation. In addition Disclosure Scotland can help anyone with an enquiry about the PVG scheme.

Working and volunteering in any job

Past convictions

Before you are offered a job an employer is legally entitled to ask about convictions you have had. However, depending on the type of work or volunteering that you will be undertaking, organisations and prospective employers are restricted in what information they can ask you for.

You may have been convicted some time ago, and, in law, you may have completed what is called the 'rehabilitation period'. This means that your conviction is 'spent'. As long as you are not in one of the excluded or excepted occupations, for which spent convictions may have to be declared, (for example a medical doctor), you will not have to tell a new employer about a conviction if it is 'spent'. You might choose to but you don’t have to.

If you have not completed the 'rehabilitation period' your conviction is 'unspent'. If you do not let your employer know about this you can later be refused a job even if you were offered it after the interview. An employer who finds out about the 'unspent' conviction can decline the offer of employment to you.

There are some convictions that never become 'spent' so you will always have to tell an employer about it. If you were in prison for 30 months or more your conviction can never become 'spent'.

If you want to check what the time periods are for your conviction to become 'spent' you can get help from an experienced adviser at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.

Disclosure checks

Disclosure Scotland provides three different disclosures for work or volunteering. A disclosure check may be required for a number of occupations and your prospective employer can ask for this information.

A basic disclosure can be used for any purpose. It provides a statement about any unspent convictions against your name.

A standard disclosure can be used to assess your suitability for a job because it provides a list of all unspent convictions against your name and some spent convictions.

An enhanced disclosure contains all unspent convictions, some spent convictions and any other non-conviction information considered to be relevant by the police or other Government bodies. It can be applied for when someone is working or volunteering with children or adults but not providing services that require them to be in the Protecting Vulnerable Groups Scheme (PVG).

Whether spent convictions are disclosed in a standard or enhanced disclosure depends on a number of factors. Some minor offences such as dropping litter are not disclosed. Serious offences such as serious assaults are always disclosed. Intermedate offences such as theft, breach of the peace and drug possession may or may not be disclosed depending on how old you were when you were convicted, how long ago you were convicted and what disposal you were given. More information about disclosure of spent convictions is available from Disclosure Scotland.

Working or volunteering with children and protected adults

If you are applying to work or volunteer with children or young people (under 18 year olds) and/or people of any age (over 16) who are vulnerable, your employer is legally required to make background checks. Some jobs when checks are required include working with:

  • children at an after school club
  • adults with a learning disability
  • older people in a care home.

A disclosure check is likely to be a minimum requirement but when your work requires you to undertake specific tasks unsupervised you may have to join the Protecting Vulnerable Groups Scheme.

This scheme is provided because you may be doing what is called 'regulated' work. The PVG scheme is run by Disclosure Scotland. If you are not sure if you are doing 'regulated' work you should ask your employer or the organisation you volunteer for.

Regulated work with children often involves you having responsibility for a child unsupervised by anyone else who has responsibility for the child. Regulated work with adults often takes place in an establishment where care is provided on a one-to one basis.

Background checks under the PVG scheme will be used as part of the assessment of your suitability for the job.

Joining the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme

The PVG Scheme keeps a list of people (members) involved in a wide and diverse range of organisations and groups across the statutory, voluntary and private sectors that provide services, activities and amenities for children and protected adults.

How to apply

An application to join the PVG scheme is often made by you through an employer or voluntary organisation. You will be asked to complete and sign part of the application form and the employer or organisation will complete and countersign it and send it to Disclosure Scotland for processing.

If you are new to working or volunteering in 'regulated' work you will be able to apply to join the PVG scheme. If you volunteer for a voluntary organisation, like a charity, you will have the joining fee paid for you.

It is up to an employer in the private or public sector to decide if they pay the fees for staff who have to be part of the PVG scheme.

What happens when you apply

When you apply to Disclosure Scotland it will check your criminal records and if you have a conviction, whether spent or not, which bars you from 'regulated' work you will not be allowed to join the PVG scheme. Disclosure Scotland will write to your organisation or your employer to explain that you cannot be a member of the PVG scheme. It does not explain why because that would be a breach of your confidentiality.

You may have a conviction that does not bar you from engaging in 'regulated' work. If so it may be added to your Scheme Record, depending on the seriousness of the offence, how old you were when you were convicted, how long ago you were convicted and what the court decided to do in your case. The Scheme Record is copied to you and the person who countersigned your application form to join the PVG scheme. This is likely to be your employer. You will however be accepted on to the PVG scheme. If you disagree with the inclusion of a spent conviction on your Scheme Record you can apply to the Sheriff Court to get the information removed. You will also need to tell Disclosure Scotland that you intend to do this. More information is available from Disclosure Scotland. 


If you are self-employed and involved in 'regulated' work such as individual music tuition to children or providing one-to-one care in someone’s home it may be in your interests to become a PVG scheme member. This is because people who give you work will know that your criminal records have been checked.

You can choose not to join the PVG scheme.

Notifying certain changes of circumstance to the PVG scheme

The PVG scheme requires all scheme members to let Disclosure Scotland know about changes to either of the following personal information:

  • name
  • change of gender.

If you fail to let Disclosure Scotland know about changes to your name or gender within three months of the change it is a criminal offence, unless you can show good reasons why you did not do this.

More generally, it will speed up any enquiries about your membership if you also update Disclosure Scotland about all of the following:

  • phone number
  • email address
  • change of employer (this is required to protect your privacy so that Disclosure Scotland stops sending any information to your ex-employer).

Write to Disclosure Scotland quoting your membership number with any details of changes.

Continuous checking of PVG scheme members

Once someone is a member of the PVG Scheme, if they commit an offence that brings into question their suitability to work with a child or protected adult, Disclosure Scotland will be notified immediately. This is because all relevant decisions made by criminal courts are sent to Disclosure Scotland and checked against the list of members of the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme.

Depending on the type of offence committed, Disclosure Scotland might place you under consideration for being put on a list of people who are barred from working either with children or protected adults. There is a list for each group. Being convicted of a serious offence like murder or rape will result in someone being put on a list immediately.

PVG membership records, statements and updates and their use by employers

All these documents are used to provide a disclosure check and will usually be requested before someone can do 'regulated' work.

A PVG scheme record update is likely to be requested by an organisation that knows you are already a PVG scheme member. By asking for an update it is simply checking that no convictions or other vetting information has been added to your record since it was last issued to you.

A PVG scheme record provides all the basic information about you including the type of regulated work you do and if there is any information available to show that you are under consideration for being barred. This could be because of relevant vetting information, for example, convictions.

A PVG scheme membership statement provides basic information about you and the work you are registered to do as a PVG scheme member. A PVG scheme membership statement can demonstrate that you are not barred from that type of work.

You must not use or apply for PVG disclosure records for work or volunteering that is not covered by the PVG scheme.

Further information

The following organisations provide more information about criminal records, disclosures and the PVG scheme:


Self-employed or volunteers and the PVG scheme - some guidance

You might have questions about activities and self-employed occupations because you don’t know if they are covered by the PVG scheme. You can contact Disclosure Scotland to check if you need to be part of the PVG Scheme or someone engaging in a particular activity has to be part of the scheme. The nature of work that is regulated work is not always easily defined. Here is some guidance but always check with Disclosure Scotland.

Step 1 - is it work (whether paid or unpaid). Doing a neighbour’s shopping for a favour occasionally is not regulated work.

Step 2 - who are you working with. The work has to be undertaken with a child or a protected adult for it to be regulated under the PVG scheme. However, only certain tasks with these groups will mean that it is regulated work.

Step 3 - what is the work being done. For work to be regulated work it will usually provide an opportunity for a person to have unsupervised contact with a child or a protected adult and to be engaged in a task that gives her/him responsibility over the child or protected adult.

Step 4 - is the work part of the person’s normal duties.

Step 5 - is the work one of these exceptions:

Some of the situations are:-

  • a class or event that is open to all, is run by one worker, and unexpectedly people under 16 attend. This work is not classed as regulated work
  • children in work or employment themselves are not doing regulated work and the person managing them is not doing regulated work either. For example, a child doing a paper round is supervised by the shop owner but a disclosure is not required to employ the child because the shop owner is not anticipated to be having unsupervised contact with the child and is not engaged in an activity with the child that is classed as regulated, for example, teaching
  • young people in work experience.
Type of activityRegulated work and the PVG scheme
Taxi driver – normally regular school runs Anyone who regularly transports children without other adults or transports vulnerable adults could be doing regulated work. At a minimum the employer should have a disclosure check done. If the taxi driver is self-employed it will be up to them to decide whether or not to join the PVG scheme.
Childminder Has to register with the Care Inspectorate and have a PVG check.
School and nursery teachers Most teachers have to be a PVG member.
Self-employed tutors or teachers of children Can choose to be a PVG member.
Activity-based childrens’ groups, for example, the Girl Guides, Scouts and Boy’s Brigade, church creche As long as there is an opportunity for the paid adult leaders or volunteers to have one-to-one contact with someone under 18, unsupervised, both the staff and the volunteers should have had disclosure checks done. This might include being a PVG member.
Sports coach volunteer Sports coaching is a difficult area to explain in terms of the PVG scheme. If someone is coaching children by arrangement with the parents of a child or group of children this is not regulated work.
Dentist Has to be a PVG member.
Medical Doctor Has to be a PVG member usually applied for in the NHS but may not require to be a PVG member if there is no opportunity for one to one consultations involving personal examinations.
Window cleaner May have to be a PVG member if windows inside a building which accommodates vulnerable people gives the cleaner time alone with a vulnerable person or child.
Masseur/Physiotherapist Has to be a PVG member if working with people under 18 or vulnerable adults.
Life guard in a swimming pool Most life guards in public pools will not need to be a PVG member because they are not doing regulated work. If a life guard works in a private agency and provides one to one swimming tuition it is likely that they will need to be a PVG member.
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