Bernadette contacted our helpline desperate for any help we could give her around her employment situation.
In the early 1990’s Bernadette received a conviction for theft. She was convicted of two separate offences and, despite being very young at the time and this being her first offence, it resulted in a prison sentence.
Bernadette explained the type of work she did and how these jobs always needed a Disclosure and Barring Service check. She said that as she knew her conviction would show up on the check, she either disclosed it on the application form or at interview. If she disclosed on the application form, she’d often hear nothing back, despite feeling that she had the necessary skills and experience. When she disclosed at interview, she was often told that her application could not be progressed or simply that she had been unsuccessful.
Bernadette had read on our website about filtering and thought that as her conviction was over 20 years ago, this would be a great help to her in securing a job. She explained that she still felt hugely embarrassed and ashamed about her past and as a result of the number of refusals she’d received, her self-confidence had taken a real knock.
‘I just don’t know how many more times I can apologise for my past. All I want is a chance to be a proper tax-paying member of society’
We explained to Bernadette that sadly due to having received a prison sentence and being convicted of more than one offence, her conviction wouldn’t currently be eligible for filtering. We explained that there were probably a couple of options open to her:-
- She could consider using her skills and experience to move into a different line of work – something that would only require a basic criminal record check where she would not need to disclose her conviction, or
- Remain in the same type of job but look at different ways of presenting herself in a more positive light.
We felt that Bernadette should concentrate on the second option and should start by thinking of all the positives she could say about herself – her skills and experience in her specific work field, previous exemplary work record and no convictions or cautions since 1993.
We suggested that if she found it difficult to talk about her conviction, she should consider using a self-disclosure statement which would incorporate the above and would hopefully counterbalance her very old conviction which appeared to have been causing her problems. Bernadette could either use the statement as a prompt to discuss her conviction at interview or, could hand it over to the employer for them to read.
We explained to Bernadette that many people have made mistakes in their youth. She had accepted her punishment from the court but it was now time to stop ‘apologising’ for the past and use it to demonstrate how far she has come since then.
We spoke to Bernadette several weeks later when she rang us to give us an update. She told us that she’d applied for a job and, despite there being a question on the application form about cautions and convictions, she took our advice and avoided the question altogether.
She was invited to attend an interview and, at no time was she asked about any cautions/convictions. Again, she thought back to the conversation with the helpline advisor and decided not to say anything at this time. Bernadette said:
‘My natural instinct was to bring up my previous conviction but I decided to try out the advice I’d been given by Unlock and said nothing’
Within a couple of hours of leaving the interview the HR Manager rang Bernadette to offer her the job. At that point, Bernadette asked if she could arrange a face to face meeting as there were some outstanding points she needed to discuss. She took along her self-disclosure letter and, using it as a prompt, Bernadette again highlighted her skills and experience and went on to explain her conviction, how it had come about and what she had achieved since then. Bernadette told us:
‘I decided to arrange a meeting with HR and I declared all – in the way that I’d been advised to. To my absolute delight, they are still keen to employ me and I start on Monday. Thank you for your help’
Generally our advice is to disclose when you’re asked. However, sometimes, disclosing at a different stage can work out better. This case shows how not disclosing on application, and instead waiting until further down the line, can work better for some people – especially those with old and/or minor offences.
We have guidance on self-disclosure statements on our information site.
Notes about this case study
This case study relates to Unlock’s helpline.
Names and details have been changed to protect the identity of those involved.