Disclosing criminal convictions to employers: Things you need to know

Have you received a criminal conviction or reprimand and are worried about how this could affect your employability? We’ve put together a short guide on what employers may require you to declare and what background checks they may run as part of their selection process.

Please note this is a general guideline only that is not exhaustive and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need further information on a specific issue please follow the links at the bottom of the page.

Spent and Unspent Convictions

In accordance with the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 criminal convictions become spent after a certain period and it is illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of a spent conviction unless they are exempt from the Act (see below). Assuming the employer is not exempt, spent convictions do not need to be declared during the application process.

For specific information on how long it takes before varying convictions/fine’s/bind-overs become spent take a look at the Nacro website: http://goo.gl/Tn4uKZ. It’s worth noting that convictions resulting in a prison sentence of 4 years or more never become spent.

Exemptions from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act

Certain jobs are exempt from the Act, meaning regardless of whether a conviction is spent or unspent it must be declared during the selection process. These include:

  • Jobs involving national security vetting
  • Jobs in law enforcement
  • Certain jobs in the security sector
  • Jobs in healthcare and the NHS
  • Jobs in Law
  • Certain jobs that involve working with children, vulnerable adults or the elderly
  • Senior positions in banking and finance

An employer should clearly state whether they are exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act early in the application process.

Disclosure and Barring Service Checks

Some employers will require you to undergo a Disclosure and Barring Service check once you’ve commenced employment. This generally will only be required for jobs that involve working with children (18 years of age or younger) or vulnerable adults (the elderly, people with disabilities or people under the care of the employee).

The DBS is an executive agency within the Home Office that relays criminal information from the Police to employers. In order for an employer to request a DBS check they are legally obliged to ensure the candidates role meets certain criteria, such as working with children unsupervised, and that the level of DBS check is appropriate.

More information on DBS checks can be found here: http://goo.gl/KbTuio .

National Security Vetting

Certain jobs require candidates to undergo a process of security vetting. These jobs are generally ones in which employees have access to sensitive information pertaining to law enforcement or national security and include:

  • Jobs within the Police
  • Certain jobs within the armed forces
  • Certain jobs within the private defence sector
  • Certain jobs within the Civil Service
  • Jobs involving access to nuclear material

Regardless of the level of security clearance candidates are required to apply for during the selection process, all criminal convictions, cautions, arrests or non-convictions should be declared (this includes penalties arising from traffic offences). With these type of disclosures, when in doubt declare! Failing to declare even a minor reprimand can be construed as dishonesty which is treated severely within these types of selection processes.

Subject Access Requests

The Data Protection Act 1998 gives you the right to access information held on you by organisations

If you have received a penalty from the police for an offence but have forgotten what or when exactly it was, you can make a Subject Access Request to the police force that issued the penalty. Once you’ve submitted the request you will receive information that is held on you on the Police National Computer, including arrests and non-convictions. The police can deny you this information in certain circumstances.

For more information on Subject Access Requests see here: http://goo.gl/DdVg6.

Useful Links

Nacro: http://goo.gl/Tn4uKZ
Disclosure and Barring Service: http://goo.gl/KbTuio
Defence Business Services National Security Vetting: http://goo.gl/Tkzur4
Subject Access Requests: http://goo.gl/DdVg6
Citizens Advice Bureau: http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/


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