Employers Must Comply With New Scheme Designed To Protect The Vulnerable

Fergal Dowling Employment Law Column

24.11.2009


Controversy over the implications of the Vetting and Barring Scheme (VBS), introduced this October, seem to have abated, at least in terms of media coverage.

However, concerns persist about the perceived bureaucracy involved and that red tape may interfere with volunteering.  People who customarily offer lifts to the children of friends to play in the Sunday morning Under-12s football match, for example, are pondering the implications, if any, of the VBS on these arrangements and await clarification.

Meanwhile, the message for employers is that they need to familiarise themselves with the VBS.

The core objective of the scheme is to enhance the controls over who can and can’t work with vulnerable people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  A new body, the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA), is responsible for the VBS and employers will need to verify that employees are registered with the ISA and eligible to undertake a given role.

Increased safeguards were introduced on October 12, including:

  • Broadening the range of positions in which it is a criminal offence for barred people to work, to include moderators of internet chat rooms used by children, and a number of prison service and NHS positions
  • The ISA will administer two new barred lists which will replace the three current barring lists, POVA, POCA and List 99
  • Checks of the new lists will be made as part of an enhanced CRB checking process
  • Employers will have to inform the ISA of information which led them to refuse an individual a role working with vulnerable people;  conversely, the ISA will inform employers should registered employees become barred as a result of fresh data

Work with vulnerable individuals will be either a 'regulatory' activity, where the employee must be registered with the ISA, or a 'controlled' activity, when it will be mandatory for employers to check the ISA status of the employee, who may be employed under certain safeguards. 

It remains the responsibility of the employee to register with the ISA, incurring a one-off fee of £64, when he or she - if suitable - will be given an ISA Registration Number to be shared with employers.  Organisations will also need to check that their existing workforce is registered with the ISA. 

Bosses who employ someone for regulatory activity who has not applied to register, or who is barred, commit a criminal offence and face a fine of up to £5000 or imprisonment.  . 

Employers who are likely to be at the heart of compliance with the new regime include local authorities, nurseries, schools, hospitals, care homes, charities, sports and social clubs.  Any employer or organisation unsure about the demands of the VBS process should seek legal advice.