Safer recruitment guidance 2023_Page_01
Resource Type National strategies and frameworks

Safer recruitment through better recruitment

This resource provides good practice guidance intended to help employers, especially those in social care, early learning and childcare and social work to meet existing legislative and regulatory requirements in relation to the safer recruitment and selection of people to work with people experiencing care and support services in Scotland. This guidance applies to workers being recruited into roles providing care and support, however some of it will also be relevant to ancillary workers with specific roles and some contact with people experiencing care.

This joint SSSC and Care Inspectorate guidance updates the previous version from 2016, which replaced the original Scottish Government’s national guidance from 2007. It supports employers to safely recruit suitable staff for a range of roles involved in providing care and support. This includes setting out robust recruitment processes that can help employers ensure that unsuitable staff do not gain access to children or protected adults.

This guidance supports employers to:

  • fulfil legal responsibilities regarding the recruitment of paid staff
  • increase equality and diversity within the social care workforce
  • comply with the Scottish Social Services Council’s (SSSC) Code of Practice for Employers of Social Service Workers
  • implement the Scottish Government’s Health and Social Care Standards (‘the Standards’)
  • apply the Care Inspectorate’s quality frameworks for use in self-evaluation, scrutiny and quality improvement support.

Providing care and support is highly skilled work, which demands high levels of trust and responsibility, with some people being more suitable than others. Staff can hold considerable power over people experiencing care and need to be able to be trusted to use this authority and responsibility well. Best practice recruitment approaches are crucial to ensure that the right people, with suitable skills and values, are recruited. Ensuring that the skills, values and attitudes of potential employees match the post being recruited to is an important element of building a strong, stable staff team which supports better outcomes for people.

Download a copy of the Safer Recruitment guidance by clicking here.

Applying the Care Inspectorate’s quality frameworks

The Care Inspectorate’s quality frameworks have been developed to take the Standards into account.

They focus on people’s lived experiences. their outcomes and on supporting improvement in the quality of care. For different settings and service types, the quality frameworks set out the elements that help answer key questions about the difference care is making to people. The primary purpose of a quality framework is to support services to evaluate their own performance. The same framework is then used by inspectors to provide independent assurance about the quality of care and support.

Each framework covers recruitment under ‘Key Question 3: How good is our staff team?’, with the following quality indicator:

“Quality indicator 3.1: Staff have been recruited well Key areas include the extent to which:

  • people benefit from safer recruitment principles being used
  • recruitment and induction reflect outcomes for people experiencing care
  • induction is tailored to the training needs of the individual staff member and role.”

This quality indicator is described using quality illustrations for two levels on the six-point grading scale used in inspections.

The framework for support services (care at home, including supported living models of support), for example, provides the following illustration of ‘very good’ performance:

“People can be confident that staff are recruited in a way that has been informed by all aspects of safer recruitment guidance, including a strong emphasis on values-based recruitment. The process is well organised and documented so that core elements of the procedure are followed consistently. People using the service have opportunities and the necessary support to be involved in the process in a meaningful way that takes their views into account, including in recruitment decisions. Staff do not start work until all preemployment checks have been concluded and relevant mandatory training has been completed to ensure people are kept safe. There is a clear link between the needs of people and the skills and experience of the staff being recruited. A range of supports is in place to encourage staff retention.

The induction is thorough and has been developed to enable staff to support the outcomes of people in the particular setting. This includes an emphasis on implementing the Standards as underpinning values for all care and support. There is a clear plan as to what is included and how this will be delivered with sufficient time to ensure that staff can understand all the information and what is expected of them.

During the induction period, feedback is sought from people using the service and family members where appropriate, to help evaluate staff members’ values, communication and development needs.

Throughout the recruitment process, individual learning needs and styles are taken into account. There is likely to be a range of learning styles, for example the opportunity for face-to-face discussion and shadowing of more experienced staff. Staff are clear about their roles and responsibilities, with written information they can refer to and a named member of staff for support. Staff are clear about their conditions of employment and the arrangements for ongoing supervision and appraisal. There is additional supervision in the first few months to discuss any learning needs or issues.”

The quality illustration of a support service with a ‘poor’ performance regarding recruitment, on the other hand, states:

“There is insufficient attention paid to understanding why safer recruitment is important, which may put people at risk. Key elements of processes may be ignored, for example exploring gaps in employment records or checking that references come from a previous employer. Even where good recruitment policies are written, they may not be thoroughly implemented consistently, for example only one reference is obtained and staff start to work alone before their membership of the Protection of Vulnerable Groups Scheme has been confirmed. The service may not fully understand the skill set and experience it needs to provide high-quality care and support for the people who are using the service.

The values and motivation of potential staff may not have been explored as part of the recruitment process and may not inform recruitment decisions. Staff start work before they have sufficient knowledge and skills. They may have had no induction or it may have been brief and patchy or too much covered too quickly for it to be effective. New staff may only have the opportunity for a minimum period of shadowing and there is limited structure for additional discussions about their learning needs, either through supervision or a mentor.

The induction may be generic, have not been reviewed recently, or may not include effective input about the Health and Social Care Standards.”

The quality frameworks used for self-evaluation and joint inspection of local authorities and partnerships also cover recruitment, including for example the following key factors in the quality framework for children and young people in need of care and protection for strategic inspection of services for children and young people:

  • “partners clearly identify their human resource requirements to provide a high-quality service to
    vulnerable children, young people and families.
  • a joint workforce strategy is in place and takes account of current and future staffing, succession and absence planning.
  • principles of equality and fairness underpin recruitment and retention practices.
  • multi-disciplinary working and teamwork are thoroughly established in day-to-day practice with children and young people in need of care and protection.”

Equality, diversity and inclusion

Diversity, equality, equity or inclusion?

The CIPD report on Building Inclusive Workplaces defines what diversity, equality, equity and inclusion mean. The definitions of each are outlined below.

  • Diversity refers to demographic differences of a group – often at team or organisational level.
    Often, diversity references protected characteristics in UK law: age, disability, gender reassignment,
    marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual
  • Equality means equal rights and opportunities are afforded to all. The 2010 Equality Act in the UK protects those with protected characteristics from direct and indirect discrimination in the workplace.
  • Equity recognises that treating everyone equally has shortcomings, when the playing field is not level. An equity approach emphasises that everyone should not be treated the same, but according to their own needs.
  • Inclusion is often defined as the extent to which everyone at work, regardless of their background, identity or circumstance, feels valued, accepted and supported to succeed at work.

The above definitions translate into how we can uphold equality and avoid discrimination in our recruitment practices and ensure equity and inclusion during the recruitment process and beyond.

Upholding equality and avoiding discrimination

The social care workforce is made up of people working in social work, social care and early learning and childcare. With the social care workforce lacking equal representation in gender, race, disability and other protected characteristics, we recognise the need to improve diversity. Greater workforce diversity brings significant benefits, with people from different backgrounds and cultures enriching the quality of care and giving people more choice and diversity as to who provides their care and support.

Fair opportunity is also a crucial component of fair work and integrating fair work principles – effective voice, opportunity, security, fulfilment and respect – into your recruitment can bring wider benefits to individuals, your organisation and the whole sector. To promote fair work, a fair work tool has been produced by statutory agencies, which you might find useful. Widening the profile of the workforce will also help address the ongoing shortage of staff across the sector.

The Equality Act 2010 protects people with the following protected characteristics from discrimination:
age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. It makes it unlawful for UK employers to discriminate when recruiting staff and forbids employers from asking specific questions summarised below when recruiting.

You must not ask candidates about protected characteristics or whether they:

  • are married, single or in a civil partnership
  • have children or plan to have children.

You must not ask candidates about their health or disability, unless:

  • there are necessary requirements of the job that cannot be met with reasonable adjustments
  • you are finding out if someone needs help to take part in a selection test or interview
  • you are using positive action to recruit a disabled person (see below).

You can ask someone their date of birth, but only on a separate equality monitoring form. You should
not let the person selecting or interviewing candidates see this form.

You must not use membership of a trade union as a factor in deciding whether to employ someone.

This includes:

  • not employing someone because they are a member of a trade union
  • insisting someone joins a trade union before you will employ them.

You can choose a candidate who has a protected characteristic over one who does not if they are both
suitable for the job and you think that people with that characteristic:

  • are underrepresented in social care
  • suffer a disadvantage connected to that characteristic (for example people from a certain ethnic group are not often given jobs in your sector).

You can only do this if you are trying to address the under-representation or disadvantage for that particular characteristic. You must make decisions on a case-by-case basis and not because of a certain policy. You cannot choose a candidate who is not as suitable for the role just because they have a protected characteristic.

Direct discrimination is when an applicant is treated less favourably compared to another job applicant because of a protected characteristic. Indirect discrimination is where a policy or requirement that applies to everyone has a more negative impact on applicants with a protected characteristic, unless it is objectively justified.

Although not required under the Equality Act 2010, employers are recommended to record and track information regarding equalities and the protected characteristics of applicants and employees. This allows you to monitor progress in increasing the diversity of your employees. When collecting personal information (e.g. ethnicity, gender, faith, sexuality) about job applicants or staff, you must protect their data and comply with the Data Protection Act 2018 and the UK GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation). You must not discriminate against a candidate based on their personal information. ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) has a template for an equality and diversity monitoring form available.

The Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC) is part of the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and both organisations provide helpful information and advice for employers.

With employment law being a reserved rather than a devolved responsibility, EHRC publications

cover employment law and their guides for employers on the Equality Act 2010 are useful reference material. The EHRC’s guidance ‘What Equality Law Means for You as an Employer: When You Recruit Someone to Work For You’ is particularly relevant for recruitment.

If there is any doubt as to whether adopted practices and strategies do comply with equal opportunities and/or human rights legislation, consider contacting the SHRC for advice or seek independent legal advice.

There are a range of voluntary organisations that support the rights of particular disadvantaged groups. For example, Stonewall provides advice on promoting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.

Promoting diversity and values-based recruitment

In order to increase workforce diversity, we need to not only remove barriers by reducing discrimination and unconscious bias, but also take more proactive steps to reach out and attract a wider range of applicants. These proactive steps are sometimes referred to as positive action and can include:

  • targeted advertising
  • anonymising applications
  • guaranteeing interviews
  • making interview panels more representative of groups you are trying to attract
  • adapting assessment activities to focus on attributes needed rather than traditional assessment tasks, such as engaging with people rather than undertaking written exercises.

In order to make your recruitment as accessible as possible and attract a wide range of applicants, employers should ensure that there are inclusive communication tools and language in recruitment materials and activities. The SSSC’s careers website provides accessible information and real-life stories encouraging people to consider a career in our sector. The SSSC’s ‘Right values, right people: recruitment toolkit’ also gives relevant advice for employers to promote equality and diversity when taking on new staff. The attitudes, values and capacity for self awareness of an applicant can be as important as their previous experience in selecting the right person for a role.

Skills Development Scotland publishes resources promoting workforce diversity in social care, such as their 2019 report ‘Achieving Diversity in the Scottish Early Learning and Childcare Workplace’.

Employers may also find the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) Partnership a helpful source of advice. Qualifications in Scotland have changed a great deal and applicants may have a variety of qualifications or skills and experience which may be beneficial. The SCQF Partnership can help you understand qualifications in Scotland and beyond, identify comparable skills and experience, and provide a range of free advice, resources and workshops which can help you set job descriptions at an appropriate level, use SCQF levels to write person specifications, identify and better understand employee training needs and source suitable training. They also run a recognition scheme, SCQF Inclusive Recruiter, for employers who use SCQF levels in their recruitment instead of specific qualifications. This can significantly widen your pool of applicants, who may have a variety of qualifications or skills and experience at the required level, which might previously have been overlooked, ensuring you get the widest range of suitable candidates.

The voluntary organisation Community Renewal works with specific disadvantaged local communities to increase employability, so you may want to contact them if they are working in the same area as your service.

Values-based recruitment is a method of recruitment that helps ensure that the applicant’s values and behaviours are aligned to those of the organisation they are applying to join. This method is complementary to the more traditional recruitment process that assesses aptitude and skills and further details are available in the SSSC’s ‘Right values, right people: recruitment toolkit’.

Incorporating a values-based approach in recruitment practices should be considered best practice in roles supporting children and vulnerable adults.

Health and disability

An employer must ask whether an applicant needs any reasonable adjustments (sometimes referred to as access requirements) for any part of the recruitment process.

Further, if an applicant has indicated a disability on their application form, or the employer becomes aware of it, or the applicant asks for reasonable adjustments to be made, the employer must consider making adjustments to assist the applicant to apply for the post advertised and attend for interview or assessment centre if selected.

In many cases, reasonable adjustments are relatively simple for an employer to make. Examples of reasonable adjustments may involve:

  • an applicant with a hearing impairment needing to clearly see the interviewer so they can lip read
  • an applicant with limited mobility needing to know the accessible routes to the interview room in the employer’s building
  • an applicant with dyslexia needing some additional reading time to familiarise themselves with materials used in an assessment centre.

The EHRC’s guidance states: “Except in very restricted circumstances or for very restricted purposes, you are not allowed to ask any job applicant about their health or any disability until the person has been:

  • offered a job either outright or on a conditional basis, or
  • included in a pool of successful candidates to be offered a job when a position becomes available

(for example, if an employer is opening a new workplace or expects to have multiple vacancies for the same role but doesn’t want to recruit separately for each one).

This includes asking such a question as part of the application process or during an interview. It also includes sending them a questionnaire about their health for them to fill in before you have offered them a job. Questions relating to previous sickness absence count as questions that relate to health or disability.

No-one else can ask these questions on your behalf either. So you cannot refer an applicant to an occupational health practitioner or ask an applicant to fill in a questionnaire provided by an occupational health practitioner before the offer of a job is made (or before inclusion in a pool of successful applicants) except in very limited circumstances, which are explained next.

The point of stopping employers asking questions about health or disability is to make sure that all job applicants are looked at properly to see if they can do the job in question, and not ruled out just because of issues related to or arising from their health or disability, such as sickness absence, which may well say nothing about whether they can do the job now.

You can ask questions once you have made a job offer or included someone in a group of successful candidates. At that stage, you could make sure that someone’s health or disability would not prevent them from doing the job. But you must consider whether there are reasonable adjustments that would enable them to do the job.”

When a disabled person and a non-disabled person both meet the job requirements, you can treat the disabled person more favourably. Supports for candidates, current employees and employers The Disability Confident scheme helps employers to “think differently about disability and take action to improve how they recruit, retain and develop disabled people”.

Applicants and current employees may be able to access additional support through the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) Access to Work scheme. An Access to Work grant can pay for things like British Sign Language interpreters, taxi fares and job coaches. A service is available for those who require communication support for job interviews.

The DWP provide a Health Adjustment Passport which can be used by candidates to help them identify support they may need, apply for Access to Work and talk to employers about reasonable adjustments and other in-work support. As an employer you may like to link to the Passport in recruitment adverts or webpages.

Employment support organisations and Local Employability Partnerships can support people with disabilities and significant health conditions to start and develop in their career. This is explored further in the next section.

Employability and work placement schemes

‘Employability’ refers to a person’s capability for gaining and maintaining employment and ‘employability services’ (or ‘employment support services’) in Scotland help people overcome barriers to employment. Any one of us may experience barriers to work at any point in our lives. Support can be short or long term, and it can be accessed from Job Centres, Local Authorities, independent employment support organisations (such as those delivering Fair Start Scotland), colleges, independent training providers and charities.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, support is most effective when it is shaped around a person’s unique circumstances and goals. A ‘key worker’ or ‘work coach’ can help participants with specific issues like access to childcare, travel costs, managing finances and more. They can also arrange work related learning opportunities to help participants experience different sectors and choose the type of career they are most suited to.

Employability services provide important support which can help you, as an employer, to recruit from a diverse range of people (including people who may otherwise feel that a career in social services is not accessible to them).

Employment support services often work in partnership with employers in their area to arrange work related learning opportunities. By taking part in this activity as an employer you can engage with people who may later wish to apply for roles with your organisation. Activities could include:

  • nominating an employee (or careers ambassador) to attend a group skills session to share their
    career story with employability participants, helping them understand the different entry routes
    and the values employers look for
  • agreeing to provide a work experience placement or shadowing opportunity
  • offering a mock or real interview to an employability participant who has completed a learning programme
  • nominating your organisation to take part in a sector-based work academy.

A key benefit of employment support is that participants can develop their knowledge and experience the role before they make an application for employment. In some cases, this recruitment approach may require additional investment from the employer before interview and during the early career stages (as some barriers to work for an individual may remain). Employment support services will
often continue to work with the individual when required and can also provide guidance to you as an employer. You may find that despite the additional investment that is sometimes required early on, new employees who have been recruited this way are likely to stay with you.

Contacting employment support services

There are a number of ways to contact employment support services to initiate partnership work and provide more recruitment opportunities for participants.

  • Contact your Local Employability Partnership to find out about programmes, opportunities or employer incentives available in your local authority.
  • Go to Fair Start Scotland’s information page for employers.
  • Research national organisations which tailor their support for particular groups. For example, The Princes Trust offers online and in-person Health and Social Care programmes for young people up to age 30, while Enable Works offers a range of employment support services for people with learning disabilities or other support needs. Contact your local Job Centre Plus to ask about their sector-based work academy programme and other national (UK) employability schemes.

Visit the Employability in Scotland website for the full range of supports available.

Further considerations

If offering a work experience placement or shadowing opportunity, consider whether a criminal record check from Disclosure Scotland will be necessary. You can describe the responsibilities that a participant will have while in your service, and the employment support worker can help you to explore this with the participant and Disclosure Scotland to see what level of disclosure is required. If it is required, ask the employability service if they can arrange for a participant’s Standard Disclosure or Protection of Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme membership to be in place before the placement begins. Many employment support services fund Standard Disclosures and PVG Scheme applications.

Funding may be available to support and enhance the recruitment and in-work development of people who may experience disadvantage or additional barriers. For example, enhanced contribution rates are offered by Skills Development Scotland to help improve the experiences of disabled Modern Apprentices and Modern Apprentices with care experience (up to age 29).

Candidates with criminal convictions

Having criminal convictions can mean people experience stigma and unfairly reduced life chances.

Some groups in society are more likely because of their background to have criminal convictions, including people with care experience and other people who have suffered trauma. ‘Scotland Works for You’ aims to improve the employment opportunities for those with convictions and has produced a helpful guide, with the following introduction:

“Around a third of men in the United Kingdom have a criminal record, and around one in 10 women. Most are for minor crimes and result in non-custodial sentences. There is often a stigma attached to having a criminal record. This means those who are punished formally by the courts and justice system can also be informally punished, because it reduces their future opportunities in life. People with convictions can be excluded from society as a result. This exclusion can lead to an increased risk of reoffending for some people, but both can be reduced
through employment, volunteering and education opportunities. These can help promote a sense that they are part of society and have an investment in it.”

People can sometimes assume that they will not get a job in social care if they have any conviction, but this is not the case. Convictions will not necessarily prevent someone from working in a care service, or becoming a member of the PVG Scheme. It will depend on the nature of the conviction and the context. For some social care roles, having lived experience of the justice system can be of value to both people who experience services and to services as a whole. This is because the person with lived experience can offer meaningful knowledge and understanding of the justice system, including what can lead people into the system and in turn what can support someone out of the system.

Release Scotland is an organisation started by employers who want to make a difference and help people with convictions turn their lives around. It is a network of Scotland’s employers, of all shapes and sizes, including members of the private, public and third sectors and supports the Ban the Box campaign, established by Business in the Community. Release Scotland provides a range of resources
and tools to answer questions and support employers to recruit staff with previous convictions.

See below for further information on carrying out PVG and disclosure checks.

Support for recruiting young people

There are a range of supports to promote the employment of young people, which reflects rights based recruitment and the principles of the UNCRC and The Promise. Young people make a valuable contribution to the sector and in 2019 and 2020, young people under 25 years were the largest group to start working with a new child or adult care service employer.

My World of Work is the national careers platform, hosted by Skills Development Scotland and used by careers advisers across all schools and high street careers centres. As an employer you may find it helpful to research relevant funding and training courses offered on the site for young people. As described in the ‘Employability and work placement schemes’ section you could consider getting involved by offering insight sessions or work placements. is the national apprenticeship website, also hosted by Skills Development Scotland. You can use this platform to advertise modern apprenticeship vacancies within your organisation. Modern apprenticeships are available for people of all ages, and often used to upskill current employees, however they hold particular value to young people looking for a supportive entry route which will include access to a workplace mentor (provided by the employer), an SVQ qualification and additional core skills. If you need to find an approved learning provider to work with you can use the tool on

Care experienced people

Care experienced people can face particular barriers in relation to being recruited and progressing in the workplace. Under the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act 2014, many statutory bodies took on legal responsibilities as Corporate Parents to improve the support provided to care experienced young people as young adults. Across wider public society, people are being asked to help improve the life chances of care experienced young people and as an employer you are encouraged to take positive action to recruit a young person with a care background. The Promise and Who Cares Scotland provide information and advice on a national level and many local authorities support care experienced young people to access employment opportunities.

It is recognised that people who have lived experience of the care sector (through for example being cared for away from home during childhood for any length of time or living with family who have required additional local authority support) may have experienced disruption to education.

Furthermore, evidence suggests people may continue to face lasting impacts in education, training, and work as a result of these early experiences. Both IRISS and The FrameWork Institute have produced helpful information about the barriers that care experienced people face.

Career support available for care experienced young people includes:

  • enhanced financial contributions to learning providers from Skills Development Scotland for modern apprentices with care experience, up to age 29
  • a bursary from Student Awards Agency Scotland for full time students with care experience
  • access to enhanced employment support, for example with Fair Start Scotland.

Care experienced young people are often disadvantaged economically and this can be a barrier to employment. Measures that employers can take to mitigate the effects of poverty include helping with the costs and resources needed for application, such as IT support, travel and subsistence expenses to attend an interview. Some employers have started to ask for voluntary disclosure of care experience on their application forms, which means they can offer additional help with the application and interview process.

Care experienced young people can benefit from being offered feedback on what they did well during the recruitment process and how this could be strengthened for further applications (see ‘Interview or assessment records’ section below).


Although this guidance is to support the recruitment of paid staff, including compliance with legal duties as an employer, much is also relevant for recruiting volunteers. Volunteers make an important and valuable contribution to social care and are essential for some services, with volunteers working alongside paid staff. Responsibility for supervising and supporting volunteers is a significant role
for many paid staff in particular service types. For more information and guidance on recruiting and supporting volunteers, including details of your local volunteer centre, contact Volunteer Scotland.

Involving people experiencing care in recruitment and selection decisions

Standard 4.9 of the Scottish Government’s Health and Social Care Standards states “I can take part in recruiting and training people if possible” and in addition part of Standard 3.11 states “If possible, I can have a say on who provides my care and support.”

The Care Inspectorate’s quality indicator framework for support services also includes the following:

“People using the service have opportunities and the necessary support to be involved in the process in a meaningful way that takes their views into account, including in recruitment decisions. If the person using the service agrees, family members have the opportunity to be involved in making recruitment decisions in a meaningful way. During the induction period, feedback is sought from people using the service and family members where appropriate, to help evaluate staff members’ values, communication and development needs.”

Although involving people in recruitment is a developing area of practice, it has become commonplace for social care services to involve people when taking on new staff, particularly as part of the interview process.

Various methods include:

  • visits by applicants to the service
  • a group of people who experience the service meeting applicants individually, often with a set of questions agreed in advance
  • a group of people who experience services meeting a group of applicants, often to undertake a group exercise
  • asking people who experience the service to help develop the person specification for the post without being directly involved in the interview process or
  • including people who experience the service as a member of a panel interview.

People experiencing a service can be involved in recruitment at different levels, including making decisions regarding the employment of a candidate to provide their direct care and support. Many organisations also support a group or committee of people experiencing a service or a group drawn from multiple services. The views of people experiencing services can also be gained by someone specifically allocated this role, who is able to draw on lived experiences of care. Some organisations also have lived user representation within their governance structures. Similarly, many services invite family members to participate in individual recruitment decisions or involve a group of relatives in the recruitment process. Involving people in recruitment should be considered by all services, including early learning and childcare. 

You should think about the following issues:

  • have you provided adequate training and support for people who experience services to undertake the task you have asked them to do?
  • are people clear about their role within the whole process and have you helped to manage their expectations?
  • have you made clear whether people experiencing the service will contribute directly to making the recruitment decision?
  • have you thought about how you will manage any personal biases in relation to age, sex discrimination and other equalities issues?

Some employers are adopting a co-design approach to the whole recruitment process, including co-creating adverts, all recruitment materials, design of the interview/selection arrangements and questions asked at interview.

Developing your recruitment policy

It is good practice that employers have a recruitment policy, which should follow this guidance and be fully compliant with all relevant legislation.

An explicit written recruitment policy can help show your organisation’s commitment to safeguarding and promoting the rights and wellbeing of people both experiencing and providing care and support.

Your policy should include a statement on how the way that you recruit staff reflects the values of your organisation. For example, the policy could include a statement on how your recruitment is promoting equality and diversity within your workforce. You could also add positive statements encouraging applications from people with protected characteristics and criminal convictions.

There are also employer accreditation schemes, such as the LGBT charter and Disability Confident Committed, which provide external assurance and logos to display.

Key statements from your policy may be included in:

  • publicity materials
  • recruitment websites
  • advertisements
  • applicant information packs
  • person specifications
  • job descriptions
  • competency frameworks
  • induction training.

Your policy should refer to the different stages of the recruitment process and how your organisation approaches these. For example:

  • use of assessment centre
  • composition of interview panels
  • values-based recruitment
  • retention of applicant information
  • how offers of employment will be made
  • conditions of employment such as professional registration or probationary periods
  • provision of references.

Your policy should also invite feedback and include a process for dealing with recruitment complaints.

Trauma informed recruitment

All stages of recruitment should, where possible, be trauma informed. Many of the areas covered in this guidance will help to ensure your recruitment processes are trauma informed and you therefore may wish to highlight this in your recruitment policy.

Being ‘trauma informed’ means being able to recognise when someone may be affected by trauma, adjusting how we work to take this into account, and responding in a way that supports recovery, does no harm and recognises and supports people’s resilience.

Central to this is the importance of relationships. The people are a huge part of what makes, shapes, drives and develops an organisation and therefore all stages of recruitment and the policies and processes that support recruitment are key and should be developed and undertaken in a thoughtful and meaningful way. A relational approach to recruitment should be taken at each step of the way,
from the planning stages right through to induction. If one of the steps does not align with the organisational values, it can easily undo the achievements of other steps.

When undertaken through a trauma informed lens, the recruitment, interview, and induction stages acknowledge that many people coming into the workplace have experienced their own trauma and adversity; it also respects and expects that there is a multi-layered impact on staff working in a trauma-focused and highly stressful environment and context. This is in addition to the knowledge that most people find interviews a stressful and high pressure situation that can cause anxieties to resurface and can evoke feelings around being judged, being stupid and not being good enough.

Moreover, interviews by their very nature involve a power dynamic and a position of privilege. All of this – particularly for those who have experienced trauma and adversity – can trigger feelings of fear and can place people into fight/flight/freeze mode (i.e. survival mode). We know that fear and going into survival mode can restrict and constrict thinking and exploration, so in order to get the best out of people it is in our - and their - best interest to support people at every stage to feel safe, listened to, valued, engaged and empowered. All stages of the recruitment process should, where possible, be collaborative, communicative, transparent, and reciprocal.

You will find helpful information on trauma informed practice in NHS Education for Scotland’s National Trauma Training resources:

Application forms and CVs

You should have a focused but comprehensive application form, in a written and/or online format, that formally requires applicants to provide information in support of their application. The use of application forms is recommended as it allows an employer to obtain a common set of core data from all applicants.

However, very long or poorly-designed application forms can deter people from applying, and may even present barriers to candidates who have less experience applying for roles in Scottish care services. This can include young people, social care students, people using employment support services, international candidates and refugees and asylum seekers.

Some organisations accept CVs instead of application forms which is acceptable under this guidance providing the right information is gathered at other appropriate points in the recruitment process. You can also accept a CV initially, and then require candidates moving forward in the recruitment process to complete your organisation’s application form (for example upon the offer of an interview, or after
it has taken place). By accepting CVs at least for the early stages in the process you could widen access to roles in your organisation and attract interest from more candidates.

The CIPD factsheet on the use of application forms is a helpful guide for considering this issue.

You should seek the following information in your application form and if you are accepting CVs you should make sure the same information is gathered during the recruitment process and recorded appropriately.

  • A full employment history in chronological order including part time and voluntary employment, including start/end dates, reason for ceasing and explanations for periods not in employment or education/training; for older applicants with a very long employment history, some flexibility is acceptable regarding their early career.
  • A statement of academic and/or vocational qualifications relevant to the position.
  • Any involvement in disciplinary or grievance procedures and any ‘live’ formal warnings.
  • Details of current or former registration with the SSSC or any other relevant professional regulator, declaration of any finding by a regulatory body and any conditions that apply to current registration.
  • Information on PVG Scheme membership.
  • A declaration of any family or close relationship to existing employees and relatives of people using a service provided by your organisation.
  • Details of referees (full details of what is required at contained within the References section below).
  • A personal statement or other recorded evidence of the personal qualities, values and experience the person believes are relevant to their suitability for the post and how they meet the person specification.

Although full identifying details are clearly needed, some organisations are no longer requiring these in the application form and are collecting these details separately, which can help avoid discrimination and unconscious bias. Be clear that as a prospective employer you may contact any former employer in addition to the referees nominated by the applicant.

Applicants should be informed that if employed, failure to disclose important information at the application stage may lead to dismissal and referral to the relevant regulator if discovered at a later date.

For ‘regulated work’ roles involving responsibility for caring or supporting children or vulnerable adults, or positions of trust within organisations providing care and support, PVG Scheme membership is mandatory. If you are advertising a post involving ‘regulated’ work, which involves direct responsibility for children and protected adults as defined by Disclosure Scotland, then a PVG will be needed. A
standard disclosure will be needed for some non-regulated work posts that involve contact with people experiencing care. For example, a standard disclosure would be expected for an administrative role within a care service, but not an administrative role in a central office that does not involve contact with people experiencing care. For PVG and standard disclosure checks, the law requires the
following to be disclosed:

  • any unspent convictions, and
  • any relevant spent convictions.

Disclosure Scotland provides the following guidance on spent and unspent convictions:

Employers and prospective applicants may also find the following Disclosure Scotland podcast on
careers in social services helpful:

The SSSC also has guidance for applicants on what convictions they need to declare to you as
employer and to the SSSC:

Make clear on the application form that Disclosure Scotland/PVG Scheme membership checks or regulatory body registration checks will be carried out. In addition to the required level of disclosure check with Disclosure Scotland, you can ask applicants to self-declare convictions to you as part of the recruitment process. If you do this, however, you should inform applicants:

  • what they legally need to disclose
  • where they can get advice about disclosing.

Most organisations who support people with convictions recommend using a ‘letter of disclosure’. In this letter the applicant explains:

  • why they want to disclose their convictions
  • the nature of your convictions and the sentences they got
  • the circumstances that led to the convictions
  • changes they’ve made in their life since the conviction, like education
  • why they should be considered for the position.

Disclosure Scotland provides guidance for employers and applicants regarding self-declaration: Help finding a job with a conviction -

Ensure application forms are not discriminatory. For example, to require a form to be filled out ‘in your own handwriting’, where written English is not relevant to the post, may discriminate against applicants whose first language is not English. It could also discriminate against applicants with disabilities that affect writing ability. This may be avoided by making an electronic version of the form available.

Many roles do not require a high level of competency with regard to written English and therefore you should consider applicants being able to use other formats to evidence their relevant personal qualities and experience. The EHRC’s ‘What Equality Law Means for You as an Employer:

When You Recruit Someone to Work For You’ provides detailed guidance for avoiding discrimination and potential claims against you at an Employment Tribunal.

A tool such as a personal interview is an effective way of looking at skill, suitability and fitness. When completing an application form, applicants should be made aware that:

  • this kind of interview is a key part of the recruitment process and that by submitting their application form, they understand this
  • if they find this kind of probing difficult, they may take the opportunity to withdraw.

ACAS provides a template for a generic job application form, which may be helpful.

Retaining recruitment information

Only retain information obtained through a recruitment exercise for as long as there is a clear business need for it. You have a legal responsibility to protect the personal data about job applicants or staff and comply with the Data Protection Act 2018 and UK GDPR. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) provides advice on complying with UK GDPR. Although the ICO’s Employment Practices Code from 2011 has not been updated since the introduction of the Data Protection Act 2018, this remains a helpful resource for employers and provides advice on the different stages of the recruitment process set out below. information has not been updated since the Data Protection Act 2018 became law.

You may choose to retain recruitment records for a longer period of time, six months to one year, in case of a recruitment complaint, discrimination challenge, or to assist in the assessment of ways to improve the recruitment process for future vacancies.

You may wish to keep more information for longer about successful candidates. The Care Inspectorate expects employers to retain full records for people who are appointed.

Settlement or confidentiality agreements

Settlement or confidentiality agreements are sometimes referred to as confidentiality clauses, nondisclosure agreements or gagging clauses. They involve an agreement between an employer and employee at the termination of a contract that certain types of information will not be discussed or passed on. Settlement or confidentiality agreements can be used reasonably to protect confidential information or in cases where a worker wants to make sure the details of the discrimination to which they have been subjected will not be discussed. They can also be used unreasonably and the EHRC has produced helpful guidance on their appropriate use.

Settlement agreements however do not apply to an employer’s duty to make referrals and pass information to Disclosure Scotland or to professional regulators. If a settlement agreement is used when terminating employment, it must be made clear that any confidentiality clause does not apply to information being passed to Disclosure Scotland or the individual’s regulatory body. Similarly, settlement agreements should not prevent employers from fulfilling their responsibility under the SSSC’s Codes of Practice for Employers of Social Service Workers to “Ask for and provide accurate and appropriate references to share information relating to a person’s suitability to work in social services”.

Recruitment and employment agencies

Care providers can use recruitment and employment agencies for a range of purposes. For example, providers can contract a recruitment agency to assist with all or part of their process of recruiting their own employees. Recruitment agencies are sometimes used to recruit to senior positions and are increasingly being used to filter applications for other roles. If you decide to employ a recruitment agency for this purpose, then applicants must be informed that they are applying to a recruitment agency rather than direct to you as the employer. It is important that there is transparency with candidates and that you are clear regarding the role of the agency in the recruitment process and
decision-making regarding appointments being made.

Providers contracting employment agencies to supply staff cover is the most common use of agencies in the social services sector. Nurse agencies are registered and regulated in their own right with the Care Inspectorate, are regularly inspected and expected to adhere to the SSSC’s Code of Practice for Social Service Employers and the NMC’s expectations for employers. Social care employment agencies on the other hand are not registered with the Care Inspectorate, but their staff are required to be individually registered with the SSSC (or another equivalent professional regulator) and comply with the SSSC’s Code of Practice for Social Service Workers.

An employment agency supplying staff cover should adopt the principles of safer recruitment as outlined in this document. It is their responsibility as the employer to carry out recruitment checks to ensure that individuals are suitable for the roles they are covering. Responsibility for ensuring that people who experience care are safe and protected lies with the care service, which should seek formal
assurances from any employment agency that individuals have been recruited robustly. You should include expectations of safer recruitment practices into your contracts with any agency providing staff.

All recruitment and employment agencies must comply with the Employment Agencies Act 1973 and the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Business Regulations 2003. This includes being required to provide their agency staff with a contract and to not charge individuals for finding them work. The Regulations also stipulate that agency staff should be paid even if as a provider you are unhappy with their work. Recruitment and employment agencies are also required to comply with the Agency Workers Regulations 2010 and the Equality Act 2010. Compliance is regulated by the Employment Agencies Standards Inspectorate. In addition, there are several membership organisations for agencies with their own codes of practice, with the largest being the Recruitment and Employment Confederation and the Association of Professional Staffing Companies.

A checklist which the agency is required to complete for each member of staff deployed to your service may assist to offer you some extra assurance that the agency is fulfilling its duties to you. Any observed or alleged fitness to practise issues must be reported by the service provider to the employment agency and to the employee’s relevant registering body.

Digitally assisted recruitment

While nothing replicates the value of meeting candidates in person in order to make the right selection, technology can enhance parts of the recruitment process with regard to effectiveness as well as efficiency. Vacancies were being routinely advertised online before the pandemic, which had significantly increased reach and accessibility. In addition to reducing costs, harnessing the power of the internet to find and match employers and employees is benefitting all parties. The pandemic has meant many organisations adopting virtual methods for more aspects of the recruitment process through necessity, including screening and interviews, which has further raised awareness of the benefits of using technology.

Having attracted candidates, the use of online tests and written exercises can significantly enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of an initial screening process from which candidates are then shortlisted for interview. Just as social media is allowing the advertising of vacancies to reach a wider and larger audience, so using online applications and screening processes means that people can be recruited from a greater pool of candidates. Virtual screening can help to increase diversity, as not having to travel can mean more equal access for job seekers from remote and marginalised communities. Unconscious bias in recruitment can also be reduced by limiting the visual and other cultural triggers that can sometimes lead to people forming false first impressions.

Interviews via virtual platforms were being used before the pandemic, but employers having to move interviews online has not been as negative for employers as many expected and some will choose to retain elements of this. For example, the traditional formal interview format with an employer panel can transfer well to a virtual setting and allow more time for the more informal but increasingly important aspect of candidates meeting people experiencing and working in services as part of the selection process.

Identity and background checks can also be carried out online and the use of specialist digital platforms to manage this process is increasing. Carrying out background checks remotely affords greater efficiency and for data to be shared with others, including regulators. If you are deploying a digital platform or contracting a specialist agency to manage this on your behalf, you should ensure that it complies with legal and security requirements, including necessary permissions obtained for the use of personal data.

Reference templates

See examples of suitable proformas for requesting (reference template A) and providing references (reference template B).



Health and Social Care Standards

The Health and Social Care Standards set out what we should expect when using health, social care or social work services in Scotland

Self-directed support library

A selection of resources that explain what SDS is, people’s stories, assessment and support planning tools as well as resources to influence commissioning and procurement practice to make SDS truly mainstream across Scotland

Improvement support section

An introduction to the improvement support section and quality improvement methodology.

Latest adult and health bulletin

A weekly bulletin produced by our policy team providing an update on the key developments in adult social care and health.

Adult & Health Bulletin- 24-30 November 2023

Adult & Health Bulletin- 24-30 November 2023

Adult & Health Bulletin- 24-30 November 2023

Latest children and young people bulletin

A weekly bulletin produced by our policy team providing an update on the key developments concerning children and young people.

Children & Young People Bulletin: 24 - 30 November 2023

Children & Young People Bulletin: 24 - 30 November 2023

Children & Young People Bulletin: 24 - 30 November 2023


An overview of policy developments relating to carers

View Page


An overview of policy developments relating to the workforce

View Page