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Disclosing criminal records to employers

Bringing together links to information, resources, advice, FAQ's and useful links

Disclosing criminal records to employers in brief

  • One of the most important things is to be sure to know what is on your police record – get a copy if you’re not sure.
  • You only have to disclose your record to an employer if they ask you. Many employers ask at some point and if your convictions are unspent, you legally need to disclose them. If an employer asks and you don’t disclose, they could later revoke the job offer or you could be dismissed. You could even face a further conviction.
  • There is rarely a right or wrong way to disclose your convictions. It is very much down to what you feel most comfortable doing. This will depend on the details of your convictions, as well as the type of roles you are applying for.
  • So long as you are not disclosing more than what you need to (i.e. spent convictions for jobs not exempt from the ROA), it usually pays to be as honest and open as you can be, at the earliest (but also most appropriate) opportunity.
  • If you disclose, you should try to keep a written copy of what you have disclosed (providing the employer with that too) so that you have this in case it comes up again in the future.
  • If you’ve not got cautions or convictions, and only allegations or other ‘local police information’, it’s unlikely that it will come up on an enhanced DBS check. Now that DBS checks get sent to you, you will know whether or not the police have decided to disclose it.
  • There are rarely any hard and fast rules about what employers must do in response to criminal records. Generally, they respond best when convictions are disclosed face-to-face when you get a chance to explain the circumstances and try to alleviate any immediate concerns that they may have.

What to disclose and when?

You only have to disclose your criminal record if you are asked. However, there may be reasons why you would choose to disclose even if you are not asked – for example if the employer tells you that they will be doing formal criminal record checks.

There’s no set time in which you have to disclose. You may be led by the employers own recruitment process – for example they may tell you that there will be a discussion at the end of the formal interview. If this isn’t the case, it’s always best to disclose at the earliest opportunity.

If you are applying for a job overseas then what you need to disclose will depend on the type of job you are applying for and the country you wish to work in.

If you receive a conviction whilst you are in employment, you will need to check your contract of employment to see whether there is any clause included which requires you to disclose.

Frequently asked questions

  • Yes. As an applicant, you have very few rights. You may be able to explain why you didn’t disclose, but the employer may feel you have tried to be dishonest. Many employers don’t have an issue with the conviction, but they may feel you’ve tried to be dishonest by withholding the information and will see it as a breach of trust.

  • It depends what you were asked when you first took the job and what is in your contract.

    You really only have to tell your employer about criminal convictions if this could have an impact on your employment and your ability to do your job.

    However, there may be circumstances where because of the nature of the organisation or work that they do, that a criminal conviction could be relevant. For example if you work for a Government body or worked in finance and were convicted of a criminal offence of say, dishonesty, then this could be relevant to your employment.

    It is also worth looking at what information you disclosed when you first started working for them. Most employers ask questions relating to criminal convictions. Furthermore, they will often ask that you make them aware of any changes to the details that you provided on the application form.

    If you disclose to your employer, then it’s possible that they may try to dismiss you. If they did, then you could try to argue unfair dismissal and they would have to justify the reasons for the dismissal and that it was fair in all circumstances. If your conviction had nothing whatsoever to do with your particular role or the organisation, then it would appear difficult to justify this in the circumstances. However, cases that we have dealt with lead us to suggest that often employers will try any means possible to justify a dismissal.

  • If they are disclosed on a criminal record check, then it may well be to your advantage to discuss them in further detail to enhance your chances of success. A refusal may be lawful beyond the facts of the disclosure but may look evasive.

  • If the job is covered by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, then you will have some protection, especially as your conviction is spent. Section 4(2) of the ROA states:-

    “The person questioned shall not be subjected to any liability or otherwise prejudiced in law by reason of any failure to acknowledge or disclose a spent conviction or any circumstances ancillary to a spent conviction in his answer to the question”.

    This means that if you are asked questions about being dismissed or whether you have been subject to disciplinary action and answering the question would flag up your spent conviction, then the ROA suggests that you answer ‘No’ to this question.

  • Yes you should disclose when asked. You can use a disclosure statement to assist you. You can refuse but this will not look good, and could affect your chances of obtaining the job. The interviewing panel will have responsibilities under the Data Protection Act so your interview will be treated confidentially.

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