Last reviewed 6 May 2019

Early years providers must ensure that children in their care are safe from harm and that their welfare is promoted at all times. To achieve this, it is important to have robust recruitment policies and processes in place that focus on safeguarding.

Follow these 10 tips when you recruit new staff.

  1. Make safeguarding the core of your recruitment process.

    Safeguarding should be at the centre of all recruitment activity in an early years service. It must be a core objective for the organisation to ensure that only suitable people are appointed and those who might pose a risk of harm are prevented from working with children.

    Early years settings should be safe environments where children can learn and develop free from the threat of abuse or harm. This can only be achieved if appropriate safeguarding standards and checks are included as core elements within the recruitment process.

  2. Put appropriate policies and procedures in place.

    The approach to recruiting staff or volunteers to work with children should be set out clearly in written policies and procedures. This is key in ensuring that relevant statutory checks are carried out thoroughly and consistently.

    Policies and procedures should be carefully implemented. Managers and staff responsible for recruitment should be appropriately trained and appropriate supervision should be in place. Consistent high-quality recruitment practice should be the goal.

  3. Have regard to key safeguarding guidance.

    There is a great deal of guidance relating to recruitment and safeguarding. Much of it is statutory. Other guidance represents good practice. Early years providers must ensure that they update their policies and procedures to conform to the latest versions.

    For instance, in England the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework is mandatory for all early years providers. This specifies that providers must not allow people, whose suitability has not been checked, including through a criminal records check, to have unsupervised contact with children being cared for.

  4. Carry out the necessary disclosure and barring checks.

    Disclosure and barring checks play a central role in safe recruitment processes.

    Early years services must have clear and up-to-date policies and procedures relating to obtaining the correct disclosure and barring checks for potential new recruits. The checks are a vital element in recruitment to childcare positions and must not be missed. They are designed to ensure that people who are barred from working with children cannot work with children again.

    In England and Wales, the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) carries out the appropriate vetting checks for employers. The DBS has access to criminal records and to official lists of barred individuals. Elsewhere in the UK similar services are carried out by Disclosure Scotland and AccessNI in Northern Ireland.

    Different levels of disclosure are available:

    • standard checks

    • enhanced checks

    • enhanced checks with a relevant Barring List check.

    Anyone working in a “regulated activity” must have an “enhanced” check which includes a check of the relevant barred list. Such enhanced checks are more thorough than standard criminal records checks.

    Disclosure and barring checks can only be carried out by employers. They cannot be requested by the person themselves.

  5. Carry out Right to Work checks.

    By law employers have a duty under the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006, as amended by the 2016 Immigration Act, to check that prospective employees are legally entitled to work in the UK. Failing to comply with the legislation, or actually employing someone who is not entitled to work in the UK or is not who they say they are, not only exposes children to potential risk but can result in heavy penalties.

  6. Check applicants qualifications.

    You should always check that any prospective early years employee is actually qualified to work with children. At interview stage ask them to bring along their certificates and other evidence of qualifications. Examine the original documents for authenticity and take copies.

    Employers can check with the awarding body shown on the certificate that a qualification is genuine. In England they can also use the Department for Education checking service to find out if a person’s qualifications allow them to work in an early years setting and if you can include them in your staff:child ratios.

    The early years qualifications checking service can be found at

  7. Ask for suitable references.

    A prospective employer should always obtain references direct from the people given as referees.

    Early years employers should ask referees about a candidate’s suitability and ability to work with children. They should also ask if the candidate has appropriate knowledge and understanding of child protection and safeguarding.

  8. Avoid discrimination.

    At all stages in the recruitment process it is important to avoid discrimination. Recruitment policies should be developed in the context of respect for diversity and equality. They must be fair and transparent.

    Discrimination is inappropriate and unlawful. Remember to exercise vigilance to ensure there is no discrimination against a candidate based on their:

    • age

    • gender

    • marital status

    • sexual orientation

    • race or ethnicity

    • religion

    • part-time status

    • disability.

    Under the Equality Act 2010, employers are required to make reasonable adjustments to employment arrangements, or premises, if they substantially disadvantage a disabled person.

  9. Make job offers conditional.

    An initial job offer should be conditional. It should only become legally binding once stipulated conditions (eg obtaining satisfactory references) have been satisfied.

    The fact that a job offer is conditional, and what it is conditional upon, should be made clear in the letter of appointment.

    Typical conditions include:

    • a satisfactory health check, if required

    • the other relevant pre-employment checks (eg a criminal records checks)

    • satisfactory references if these have not already been obtained.

    The offer would not legally stand, and thus no employment contract would be formed, where the conditions are not subsequently met.

  10. Monitor and improve your processes.

    It is vital that safe recruitment processes are subject to continuing improvement rather than being allowed to stand still.

    Recruitment policies and processes should be regularly reviewed and improved as necessary. Concerns or complaints from children, staff, parents and volunteers should be taken seriously and procedures reviewed and updated where indicated.