Amber Akhtar

Amber Akhtar


June 20, 2023

Employment Security Vetting and Clearance

This article explains what security clearance is, the key personnel who apply for it and how the procedure affects employment.

Employment Security Vetting and Clearance

Depending on the nature of the role, employers may be seeking employees for roles which involve access to sensitive information or sites which provide access to sensitive information or high value assets. In order to prevent the misuse of this information candidates must complete questionnaires, providing personal details and the information necessary to enable appropriate background checks to be carried out.

What is Security Clearance?

A key area of the UK Government’s security system is ‘vetting’, this ensures individuals who are put into positions of responsibility in the UK government and government agencies are trustworthy and will handle the sensitive information to which they are privy, with due care.

The United Kingdom Security Vetting unit (UKSV) is part of the Cabinet Office and oversees the policies for UK National Security Vetting. In order to determine the level of clearance required, the company and the responsibilities required for the role must be considered. The UKSV is responsible for establishing a single vetting database, other agencies that may be involved in the employee vetting process include:

  • The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS)
  • Criminal Record Bureau (CRB)
  • Enhanced Criminal Records Bureau (ECRB)
  • Security Industry Authority (SIA)
  • The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)

Who applies for Security Clearance?

As an employee you cannot apply for Security Clearance, this must be requested by an employer via an application form and the vetting services will be carried out by Government agencies. Security Clearance in the UK requires the organisation to be sponsored, the organisation must be contracted (or in the process of being contracted) to work on a classified project. In order to act as a sponsor, the organisation must be ‘List X accredited’, which requires going through the security vetting process. Security Clearance is granted for a specific length of time depending on the length of employment or time required to complete the project.

Levels of Security

  • Developed Vetting
  • Developed Vetting Renewal
  • Enhanced Developed Vetting
  • Security Check
  • Enhanced Security Check
  • Counter Terrorist Check

The checks may include:

  • Identity Checks
  • Employment History (previous 3 years)
  • References from previous employers
  • National and Immigration (right to work) Status
  • Criminal Record Check
  • Significant Time Abroad (a total of 6 months or more in the last 3 years)
  • Basic Personnel Security Standard (BPSS)
  • Department Company Records Check
  • Security Questionnaire
  • Credit Checks
  • Security Service Check
  • Medical/Physiological Record Check
  • Subject Interview
  • Character Reference Enquiries

How does this affect employment?

In order to guarantee compliance with security requirements, an employer can include security clearance clauses as a condition of employment in their offer of employment and employment contracts for new employees. This means that a prospective employee will need to accept going through this advanced background screening process by the employer or recruiter before they can start work. The nature of employee screening should be clearly stated to job applicants during the hiring process as the results of the pre-employment checks will impact the employer's hiring decision.

Employees who will have access to sensitive information as part of work conducted with or for the UK government will need to go through some form of security clearance. The level of vetting will depend on the nature of the work and the information they will have access to. Employers will need to apply for the security clearance via a sponsor in the government who has requested the project. Employers who collaborate frequently with the Government or are likely to in the future can include security clearance clauses in their offer letters and employment contracts.

Can you obtain security clearance with a criminal record?

Security clearance is judged case by case and will take into account all factors regarding the criminal record of an individual e.g. the offence, the age you committed the offence, disclosure etc. If you fail to disclose your criminal history this may impact your chances of gaining security clearance. However, if there is a serious conviction on your criminal record you may fail or be advised not to apply as your chances of gaining security clearance is low.

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The opinions on this page are for general information purposes only and do not constitute legal advice on which you should rely.

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