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When to make a referral

Organisations must make a referral if a person shows harmful behaviour and they:

  • are dismissed as a result
  • would or might have been dismissed but left before they could be
  • are permanently moved away from work with children or protected adults

If any of these actions were taken, the organisation must make a referral to Disclosure Scotland within 3 months of making the decision.

If the organisation does not make a referral within 3 months, Disclosure Scotland will report the organisation to Police Scotland.

Harmful behaviour that must be referred

Examples of harmful behaviour include:

  • harming a child or protected adult
  • placing a child or protected adult at risk of harm
  • inappropriate behaviour involving pornography
  • inappropriate behaviour of a sexual nature involving a child or protected adult
  • giving inappropriate medical treatment to a child or protected adult

Types of harm

There are different ways 'harm' can be defined. It's important to remember that people can cause a risk of harm without actually doing anything directly.

Examples of harm include:

  • physical harm (like inappropriate physical restraint or assault)
  • psychological harm (like emotional abuse)
  • theft (like embezzlement)

Examples of behaviour which lead to a risk of harm include:

  • attempting to harm (even if they do not succeed)
  • trying to make someone else cause harm
  • encouraging someone to self-harm
  • reckless behaviour or incompetence that may cause someone to be harmed, even if they did not mean it to


If you’re unsure whether to make a referral, you can check some examples. You can also email for help.

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